Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sensations of Labor: Acupuncture and Acupressure

These two techniques belong together because they work off of the same traditional Chinese medicine system of meridians, but they are distinct in important ways: there are a few simple acupressure techniques that you can safely try for yourself, but acupuncture should only ever be performed by a licensed acupuncturist. It is possible to hire an acupuncturist or acupressurist to work with you in labor, but most people see acupuncturists before labor, sometimes in hopes of turning a breech baby, or getting labor started if the care provider wants to schedule an induction. The acupuncturist may share acupressure points with you that you can practice at home, or try in labor. Ideally, you're getting this information from a licensed practitioner who has worked with you personally, and knows any contraindications to certain points that you may be working with.

Do some research into the training and techniques of any acupuncturist you're considering working with. They should be more than happy to share information with you regarding their training, and the safety and sterility of their methods. Since acupuncture needles do break the skin, there is a possibility of transmission of disease if proper protocols, such as using single-use needles, aren't followed. These protocols are industry standard, so it's not difficult to find a safe acupuncturist, but it's smart to do your homework and not make assumptions.

If you're using acupressure points you found online or in a book, be sure to read carefully for any contraindications for using them. A common point used for labor found on the ankle can be so effective at stimulating labor that it's recommended to not touch it at all on a pregnant person until they are term.

If you've ever had someone try to relieve your headache by squeezing the fleshy place between your thumb and pointer finger, you've already experience acupressure! You may or may not have felt that it worked; some people think the stinging sensation caused by squeezing this sensitive area merely serves as a distraction from the headache. That said, distraction is a powerful tool for coping with the sensations of labor, and traditional Chinese medicine tells us that there's more going on here. Plenty of laboring women have made it through by holding a doula or partner's hands, and having the partner squeeze this acupressure point during contractions.

So, how about some pros and cons???


Safe! And non-invasive when done properly by a license professional!

Can help with other aspects of birth! Such as turning a breech baby, or starting labor!

Versatile! Can be implemented into your birth plan in a variety of ways


Doesn't work for everybody. As with every technique, including the epidural, this won't provide sufficient relief for everyone.

Can be pricey, and only sometimes covered by insurance. If you're lucky enough to have a very inclusive policy, go for it! If not, sometimes there are community acupuncture clinics, or sliding scale providers to help you work this into a tight budget. But...

Can be risky if you try to go the DIY or budget route! Evaluate all potential providers and steer clear of anyone who seems cagey or offended that you're asking about their training or safety protocols.

Have you, or would you try acupuncture or acupressure during your labor? My thought is, getting poked probably got you into this mess...stands to reason it might help you get out of it again nine months later! ;-)

Live Omily,

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