“I’m really nervous about seeing her in so much pain. Are there any points we can do at home to help take the edge off?”
I was asked this question recently by a concerned father-to-be at his wife’s 39 week appointment. It was not the first time I’ve been asked such a question, nor will it be the last. In the interest of helping mamas everywhere, I’ve put together a handy list of points that can be used both to stimulate labor and to help alleviate pain. For a printable version you can take to the hospital or birthing center with you, click the button below.
I want to caution that these points are not meant to be used to attempt to “induce” labor before the woman’s body is ready. While acupressure is a much more natural method than pitocin or cervical dilating medications, it still causes physical changes in the body. These acupressure points are intended to be utilized to help regulate contractions once early labor has started, or to speed up the labor process if a woman’s water has broken but her cervix is not progressing as needed. If you are facing a medical induction and would like to consider natural options first, please contact your local acupuncturist to talk about how acupuncture and/or certain foods may potentially be used in place of medication.
Acupressure Points to Regulate or Stimulate Labor
The points below all have the effects of aiding cervical dilation, stimulating uterine contractions (most likely by increasing oxytocin levels), and/or helping to promote the baby to descend into the birth canal. Firm pressure may be used on each point for 5 minutes every 1-2 hours during early or active labor. Please note that by “firm pressure,” I mean constant, consistent pressure- not massage or rubbing. However, if the mom finds rubbing or massage to be more comfortable, it is ok to alternate that motion along with consistent pressure.
Note: The points below should not be stimulated during most of pregnancy. It is fine to practice locating them before 39/40 weeks, but do not actually apply pressure to the points.
1. Large Intestine 4
Large Intestine 4 is a point that many people are familiar with as a quick fix for headaches. It is located on the hand, between the thumb and pointer finger. To locate it, have the mother squeeze her thumb and pointer finger together. LI 4 is at the highest point of the muscle between the two fingers. When the point is located correctly, firm pressure will cause a dull ache in the area.
2. Spleen 6
Spleen 6 is located on the inner leg, four of the mother’s finger width’s above the inner ankle bone (medial malleolus). It is just behind the tibia bone of the lower leg.
3. Bladder 60
Bladder 60 is located on the outside of the ankle, halfway between the tip of the outer ankle bone (lateral malleolus) and the back of the ankle.
4. Gallbladder 21
Gallbladder 21 is located at the highest point of the shoulder muscle. If an imaginary line is drawn from the bony prominence on the neck (C7) to the highest point of the shoulder joint (acromion process), GB 21 is halfway between them. This is approximately in line with the nipple.
Acupressure Points to Help Relieve Pain During Labor
The following points may be used to help alleviate pain during labor either by increasing endorphins or helping to counteract pressure caused by contractions. These points may be used throughout labor, only during contractions, or whenever else the mother would like.
1. Gallbladder 21
See above for location.
Gallbladder 21 is often used to relieve stress and tension in the upper body by people who have no idea they are actually doing acupressure! Firm, consistent pressure on this point not only encourages regular contractions, but also promotes relaxation of the muscles in the neck and shoulders. If the upper body is kept loose, the lower body (read- cervix) will also be more relaxed and labor will be less painful.
2. Kidney 1
Kidney 1 is located on the center of the sole of the foot, 1/3 of the way between the bottom of the toes and the end of the heel.
Kidney 1 is used as a stress reduction point in acupuncture. It is thought to bring energy down out of the head, which promotes relaxation and focus. It is especially useful for fear or anxiety during labor.
3. Bladder 32
Bladder 32 is located on the sacrum, approximately one index finger length above the buttocks crease and one thumb width to the side of the spine. There is a small indentation at this point called a sacral foramen. The sacral foramina are holes in the sacrum that roughly form a “V” shape above the top of the buttocks crease. As labor progresses, many women find they like pressure applied not only at Bladder 32, but also Bladder 33 and 34, which are also shown in the picture below.
Bladder 32 is wonderful for counter pressure during contractions. It is easiest to use your knuckle to apply pressure to this and any other sacral points.
4. Large Intestine 4
See above for location.
While also used to promote contractions, Large Intestine 4 has a generalized pain relieving effect on the entire body.
5. Ear Shen Men
Ear Shen Men is located in the upper ear, inside the upper edge of the tip of the triangular fossa (the triangular shaped indentation near the top of the ear). To stimulate this point, squeeze both sides of the ear with either the thumb or the thumb nail pressed against Ear Shen Men.
Ear Shen Men is used as a general relaxation and pain relieving point.
And there you have it! A handy list of points that you can use at home or at the hospital to help manage labor.
Good luck guys- you’ve got this!!