Is It Safe to Use Acupressure to Induce Labor?

Inducing labor is a medical intervention that triggers the start of the childbirth process. Sometimes health care professionals recommend inducing labor when they believe speeding up the process will be better for you and your baby. Some of the most common scenarios where labor is induced include:

  • Your water broke, but your labor hasn't begun
  • You're 2 weeks past your due date and your labor hasn't started naturally
  •  There's not enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby 
  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have diabetes
  • You have kidney disease
  • You're overweight 

What Is Acupressure?

Acupressure is an ancient form of massage used in traditional Chinese medicine. According to Chinese medicine theory, the goal of acupressure is to move energy (known as "qi") throughout the inside of the body in order to keep a person healthy. If energy is blocked, the body becomes unable to handle health concerns. Acupressure can heal that.

Acupressure is applied by placing pressure with fingers on specific acupuncture points on the body. This helps to encourage energy flow and heal the body by bringing it back into balance.

How to Use Acupressure to Induce Labor

If acupressure is recommended by a doctor or midwife to help induce labor, treatments may start three days prior to the medical induction. Using deep, firm pressure, acupressure is applied to different acupressure points around the body to promote relaxation and help induce labor. Some of the most common acupressure points include:

SP6. The point is located above the ankle on the backside of the lower calf. It’s about four finger widths wide above the inner ankle bone. 

Acupressure is applied by using your index finger to apply firm pressure to this point for a few seconds. 

BL60. This point is located on the back of the foot between the ankle and the Achilles tendon. 

Acupressure is applied by using your thumb to apply light pressure while massaging the area for a few minutes. 

PC8. This energy point is located in the center of the palm. 

Acupressure is applied by using the thumb on your other hand to gently place pressure on that point and massage for a few minutes. 

Continued

BL67. This is a different point that is located outside of the end of the pinky toe, near the edge of the nail. 

To apply acupressure, gently pinch your toe by applying pressure with your index finger and thumb and massaging the area. 

L14. Located on the back of the hand, deep in between the webbing of your thumb and pointer finger, it can induce labor and help reduce pain. 

To apply acupressure, apply soft pressure with your thumb on the other hand. Massage the point for a few minutes. 

BL32. This point is located in the dimple of your buttocks right above your intergluteal cleft. 

To apply acupressure, press firmly on the area with your fingers, massaging with a downward m movement toward the buttock. Repeat every few minutes. 

BG21. This point is located in the middle of your shoulder muscle above your collar bone. 

To apply acupressure, use your index finger and thumb and pinch the area—massage with downward pressure for a few seconds.

Is It Safe to Use Acupressure to Induce Labor?

Studies on the effectiveness of acupressure to induce labor are mixed, and there is no guarantee that the labor will progress as planned.

Many people are interested in acupressure because it is a holistic and natural treatment option, but acupressure is still considered a medical intervention. 

It's usually best not to use acupressure to induce labor unless:

  • Your late into your pregnancy (37 weeks or more) 
  • You've talked to your doctor about the options and they've approved using acupressure
  • Your baby is head down
  • Both you and your baby are healthy and don't have medical complications that might make acupressure unsafe

Whether or not you choose to use acupressure as a part of your childbirth is up to you and your doctor. Although there is limited research and evidence to show that acupressure can speed up your labor, that doesn't mean it's ineffective. In fact, acupressure has no known negative impact on mother or baby. If the lack of research tells us anything, it's that more research in the area of acupressure and its use during labor and childbirth is needed. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 12, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "What Natural Ways to Induce Labor Actually Work?"

Explore IM: Acupressure for Beginners."

Mayo Clinic: "Labor and delivery, postpartum care."

Rogel Cancer Center: "Acupressure."

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