Months have passed since finding a faint positive sign on a pregnancy test then going out to buy the digital one to clear up any confusion. You’ve tracked the development of your growing baby making comparisons with different fruit sizes. Blue berries and cherries where sweet, peaches were peachy but as you approach pineapple and pumpkins your focus shifts from pregnancy to delivery. By the way thank goodness babies are baby shape and not fruit, they are the perfect fit for a pelvis.
During labour the uterus goes through a serious workout. First contracting to make room for baby to leave and then contracting to push baby out. The uterus is seriously strong. Labour is called labour for a reason. It is hard work but like running a marathon it is not without its rewards.
Like an athlete prepares for a marathon it makes sense a woman also needs to prepare for labour. Preparing to know what to expect physical, emotionally and practically. Making sure your support team know their roles and are fully equipped to help out. Resting, yes that’s right. You have full permission to take daily naps, you have grown a human and now you need to conserve your energy for birth. The list goes on.
Help is at hand
I would like to let you know about a technique that you and your support team can use from the beginning to end of labour to help manage any discomfort your contracting uterus causes. Not only can it be used from early labour to birth it can also be used at home, in hospital, in water and in combination with alternative birthing methods and medicinal pain relief.
It’s a simple technique. You push with a firm constant pressure on specific points on the body and the result is natural pain relief. Don’t worry the locations of the points aren’t weird. They are on the hands, shoulders, ankles and lower back.
How it works
I am going to try and describe how it works. At least this is how it felt in my labour and the feedback from those I have taught. For this I am going to refer to contractions like hypno-birthers do, ‘surges’. This is because contractions are not constant, they are a movement like the surge of a wave. The intensity grows to a peak and then gradually ebbs away. I found when applying pressure to points the surge would only build to 50 percent. So, the top note or peak of the contraction was not reached. This is how acupressure works as pain relief in labour.
Learning how to use the points also gives your support team a really important job to do. They won’t be wondering what to do or feeling helpless. They will be there with you applying pressure to points which help you manage contractions. It also brings skin to skin into the equation, your birth partners hands on you. Skin to skin, the promoter of Oxytocin, the hormone of love and the hormone of contracting!
Where does acupressure for pain relief in labour originate?
For over 3,000 years Traditional Chinese Medicine has offered specialised treatment in pregnancy. It considers pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal recovery a window of opportunity to enhance the woman’s well-being. In recent years the popularity of using acupressure for pain relief in labour is credited to Debra Betts, a leading international figure in obstetrics acupuncture. In years gone by when she was unable to attend births to offer acupuncture for pain relief she taught her patients to use acupressure themselves. Having heard feedback from the patients she used acupressure for the birth of her third child. She found it essential in managing her contractions. It also allowed her freedom of movement and the ability to get into water.
Is there evidence it works?
Research carried out on acupressure applied to a point on the hand showed acupressure is an effective, non-invasive, and easily applicable technique to reduce labour pain (Dabiri & Sharahi, 2014). You can also read some first hand experiences.
If you decide to look into using acupressure yourself please be aware that some of the acupressure points used can also promote contractions so they are not to be used before full term at 37 weeks.
Learn how to use it
I teach mothers and birth partners how to not only use acupressure for pain relief in labour, but also in the lead up to labour and post-partum for after pains and to aid let down of milk. As far as I am concerned acupressure is the gift that keeps on giving.
The right birth on the day
Wherever or however your baby arrives I hope you feel empowered to know your choices and have the right birth on the day, whatever that might be. With some extra tips and techniques in your tool belt for support!