I have had two babies via natural childbirth. I can’t candy-coat the experience: My first labor was agonizing — it lasted a full three days, all but five hours of it at home — and, at times, excruciating. (Thankfully, the excruciating part was only an hour or so, during transition.)
My second labor, on the other hand, was a breeze. The entire labor lasted eight hours. The only stressful part was trying to hold out for the hospital — if our cab driver had taken the route his GPS suggested, the baby likely would have been born in the backseat! But I digress.
Conventional wisdom holds that the delivery of second babies is nearly always faster and easier, and my experience definitely proves the adage. But there was another crucial difference between my first labor and my second: During my first labor, I had no true pain-management strategies in place. In my second, my husband, my doula and I were all well-versed in acupressure for labor pain, having learned the acupressure points that help quiet anxiety, ease the baby’s passage and mitigate pain.
Benefits of using acupressure during labor
I’m not writing this post to advocate natural childbirth — every mother has to make her own choice and every delivery has its own set of circumstances to navigate. But I am recommending that if childbirth is in your future you learn about the acupressure points that can ease your passage into motherhood.
In addition to the very real pain relief the acupressure offered, knowing what to do was empowering for both me and my husband. There were some points I could stimulate on my own, which was great for when I wanted to be alone, and some points that needed another person, which was great for giving my husband something to do that was actually effective.
We practiced finding the points in the weeks leading up to my due date — stimulating the points can help prime the body for labor (which is why they’re not recommended for use on pregnant women until the baby is full-term). By the time the actual labor finally happened — 11 days past my due date, but hey, who’s counting? — we already knew what to do. And not only did the baby come quickly, he came relatively painlessly. When the sensations got too intense, I knew exactly what to do, or to ask someone else to do. It was quite a different scenario from my first labor, when all I could do was try to endure each contraction with little more than willpower.
Getting to the point(s)
There are many acupressure points that, when stimulated, are effective at mitigating labor pain. Here are a few of them:
- Jianjing GB-21: The point midway between the bony prominence on the back of the neck and the top of the shoulder.
- Hand points: The points along the crease of the hand where the fingers join the palm.
- Yongquan KID-1: The depression found in the middle of the top one third of the sole of the foot.
- Sanyinjiao SP-6: The point on the inside of the calf about four finger’s widths above the ball of the ankle and slightly toward the back of the leg (off of the bone)
The points listed above are from this website, which my doula, who is also my acupuncturist, used to teach us the points. (Click on the links under the “Pain Relief during Labour” heading in the right-hand column to see them all.) It’s written by Debra Betts, an acupuncturist in New Zealand who specializes in pregnancy and women’s health. Thank you, Debra, for spreading this very powerful information!