The due date you’ve had circled on your calendar for months has come and gone. And yet… here you are: Still. Pregnant.
Unless you’re at risk of potential health issues, your healthcare provider might not opt to induce you until you near the 42-week mark. Before that, they might be more likely to suggest trying to kick-start those contractions with at-home measures.
If you’ve already tried the usual suspects, like sex or spicy foods, acupressure might be next on your list.
It’s worth noting up front that natural labor induction methods are largely unproven. But we’ve all heard of the mom who went into labor, like, 5 minutes after having a mind-blowing orgasm or eating a spicy meal. So could acupressure be your ticket to getting that baby out?
Here’s a look at what we know about acupressure and labor, whether it could help you give birth sooner, and seven points practitioners say might be worth trying.
Acupressure is a lot like acupuncture, the traditional Chinese medicine practice of inserting thin needles into strategic points of the body. But instead of using needles, acupressure targets those same points using firm massage or touch.
Both practices are believed to redirect the body’s energy flow and stimulate certain nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. That, in turn, is thought to play a role in improving certain health problems, such as chronic pain, illnesses, and stress overload.
These days, it’s usually used as a complementary therapy along with modern treatments.
Can acupressure alone stimulate labor? Some practitioners believe it could boost blood flow to the uterus, influence hormonal responses, and even bring on contractions — but there’s not much evidence.
Two 2017 reviews concluded that the practice doesn’t seem to be effective at jump-starting labor. However, the research did show that acupressure could be helpful for making labor a little shorter and reducing pain (two worthwhile benefits, for sure).
A 2016 review found that acupressure could also reduce the chance of having a cesarean delivery.
Plenty of women swear acupressure was the thing that finally got their labor started. If you’re thinking about giving it a try, these are the points that could be helpful. As with any alternative therapy, be sure to get the green light from your healthcare provider first.
Ready to try to get that bun out of the oven? Be aware that it’s not a good idea to try to induce labor before 40 weeks. Babies born before 40 weeks may have difficulty breathing or be underweight or ill.
But if you’re at 40 weeks and you’re ready to get things moving, these seven acupressure points may be helpful for kick-starting your contractions and easing pain during labor.
One of the most commonly used acupressure points, Spleen 6 (SP6) is traditionally thought to be helpful for inducing labor. It may also be effective for decreasing labor pain and helping labor move a little faster.
Where to find it: SP6 is on the back of your calf, about 2 inches above your inner lower ankle bone.
What to do: Apply firm, continuous pressure to SP6 with your index finger for a few seconds. Wait a minute, and then repeat.
Acupressure practitioners use Bladder 60 (BL60) to get labor started, ease pain during labor, and help babies who might be stuck in a bad position.
Where to find it: BL60 is a few inches below SP6, in the space between your ankle bone and Achilles tendon.
What to do: Use your thumb to lightly massage BL60 for a few minutes.
There’s no research to back this up, but… Pericardium 8 (PC8) is thought to be so effective at jump-starting contractions that it’s sometimes called “labor palace.”
Where to find it: PC8 is smack-dab in the middle of your palm. If you make a fist, it’s where the tip of your middle finger touches your palm.
What to do: Using the thumb of your other hand, apply light pressure to PC8 and gently massage for a few seconds.
Sometimes called the reaching point, Bladder 67 (BL67) is thought to trigger contractions and encourage babies stuck in wonky positions to turn, potentially making it easier for them to get out. A small 2003 study found that it eased pain during the first stage of labor.
Where to find it: BL67 is on the outer edge of your pinky toe, near where the nail bed starts.
What to do: Use your thumb and index finger to firmly pinch BL67.
Practitioners believe Large Intestine 4 (LI4) stimulates contractions. The same small study that mentioned BL67 found that LI4 could potentially be a tool for reducing first-stage labor pain.
Where to find it: LI4 is in the webbed skin between your thumb and pointer finger, right below your pointer finger knuckle.
What to do: Use the thumb of your other hand to massage LI4 using soft pressure. Massage for a minute, wait a minute, and repeat.
Some practitioners believe Bladder 32 (BL32) can get contractions started. That’s not backed by research, but one study did find that stimulating BL32 was tied to shorter labor time and higher infant Apgar scores.
Where to find it: BL32 is in the dimple at the base of your back, above your butt. To get there, run your finger down your spine until you feel an indentation.
What to do: Use your thumb to press firmly on BL32. Massage for a few minutes, moving down toward your butt.
Some practitioners recommend against using Gallbladder 21 (GB21) during pregnancy precisely because they believe it can induce labor. When used during contractions, it’s also thought to make them less painful.
Where to find it: GB21 is located in the middle of your shoulder muscle, above your collarbone.
What to do: Use your pointer finger and thumb to firmly pinch GB21, and then massage with downward pressure for a few seconds.
It would be nice if stimulating the right acupressure point gave you contractions, like, ASAP. The truth is, there’s no way to know when acupressure might induce your labor or if it’ll work at all.
Still, if you’re past your due date and have gotten the green light from your healthcare provider, it’s certainly worth a try.
If you’re looking for pain-relieving benefits, try stimulating the pressure points during labor. (Or, better yet, have someone else do it for you. You’ve got enough going on!)
- There’s no solid evidence that acupressure will kick-start your labor, but it might help your baby arrive a little faster once contractions have started or ease labor pain.
- Want to give it a try? SP6, BL60, PC8, BL67, LI4, BL32, and GB21 are good places to start.
- Just be sure to get the OK from your healthcare provider first.
- Don’t try to induce labor before 40 weeks.