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Pregnant woman in hospital sitting on exercise ball and having shoulders massaged by man

What about acupressure?

Acupressure is a traditional Chinese medicine. There are 600 points throughout the body where pressure can be applied to improve the way your body functions. This pressure may also increase the release of ‘endorphins’ – that’s your body’s own pain relief. Acupressure is one of a number of complementary medicine techniques, that can be used instead of, or alongside, Western medicine.

Does it work?

There was an interesting study carried out in Australia in 2016, where women expecting their first babies volunteered to be randomly (by chance) put into two groups, one to study the effect of complementary medicine (CM) on how they got on in labour and birth and the other to act as a “control” (the usual way of doing things). CM techniques used were: acupressure, visualisation and relaxation, breathing, massage, yoga techniques, and partner support – a bit like what we are trying to do in this “Journey to Birth” course. The women in the “control” group had the usual hospital antenatal classes.

  • Just over two out of ten women (24%) who had been told about CM techniques had an epidural, compared with seven out of ten (69%) of those who had ordinary classes.

  • Almost one in five women (18%) who had been taught CM techniques had a caesarean section, compared with one in three (33%) of those who had ordinary classes.

  • In the CM group, women also had less need to speed up labour, less damage to the perineum, and less need to resuscitate the baby.

To give you an idea of the techniques used by these women in labour, on average, women in the CM group used four of the six techniques during their labour:

  • 60% used a certain type of breathing called Blissful Belly Breathing
  • 56% used visualisation
  • 47% used acupressure
  • 46% used yoga and massage
  • 35% used Gentle Birthing Breaths, another type of breathing

A thumb being pressed into the palm of a hand

Acupressure was used by almost half of the women who had such positive outcomes in labour. The acupressure materials that were used can be accessed down below, under “See Also”. Have a look at all Debra Betts’ excellent resources – articles, diagrams, YouTube videos – all of them FREE.

Just bear in mind that the women in the study practised their chosen techniques an average of 12 times a week; for example, practising acupressure and hypnosis with their partner three times a week each, massage twice a week and yoga or breathing techniques four times a week.

This might seem like a lot of time, but all of the techniques are relaxing and can be done while you watch TV, listen to music, or chat. This is not like doing an hour’s yoga a week (although you might choose to do that as your physical challenge, as well). Deep breathing, for example, starts with practising three deep belly breaths at a time, and working up to doing 5 minutes. Most of the massage and acupressure exercises are a couple of minutes each. Start thinking about which techniques you would like to try, and start practising today!

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This article is from the free online course:

Journey to birth

Trinity College Dublin