Natural pain relief options in labour – part 2

In this second part of my series on natural pain relief methods for childbirth, I am exploring the effects of acupressure/acupuncture and reflexology during labour and birthing. See part one for other natural pain relief methods.

Birth and labour

As with all natural methods caution is advised in their use if there are any complications or chemical interventions during labour.

Acupressure/acupuncture

In traditional Chinese Medicine, meridians are a series of channels that carry qi (life force energy) throughout your body. These meridians contain over 600 points, which relate to different areas of mind and body. By restoring and balancing energy this improves efficiency in the way that your body functions. In labour they can be used to promote the release of endorphins, block the pain receptors to the brain, dilate the cervix and increase efficiency of contractions.

Research has shown that acupressure may be as effective as acupuncture during labour and does not require a therapist to be present but may be applied by your partner. However, as with any complementary therapy caution is advised on its use as some points are contraindicated during pregnancy.

Using acupressure during labour

  • Start using acupressure points early in labour for maximum benefit
  • Experiment with different acupressure points to find which ones suit your needs during labour
  • Do not use acupressure points if they produce any discomfort, they should induce a pleasant sensation and noticeable effect that wears off when discontinued
  • Acupressure is not massage but direct firm pressure to a specific area

Acupressure may be continued post birth to help relieve ‘after pains’, support breastfeeding, and reduce fatigue.

Reflexology

Reflexology is an ancient healing skill working on the reflex points on the feet or hands. It is based on the premise that the body is
mapped out on the feet and by applying pressure to certain points it will stimulate a response in the corresponding system or organ of your body. Similar to Chinese Medicine, the philosophy is that if life force (prana or qi) is disrupted or blocked it leads to dis-ease.

Reflexology can play an important role prior to, and during labour and birth. The benefits include:

  • Having reflexology may help to help stimulate the onset of labour, especially if you are overdue
  • Reflexology may balance the release of oxytocin to regulate contractions
  • It is a touch therapy which may help to increase relaxation and reduce anxiety
  • Reflexology can be used at any stage of labour and its effects may be felt within 15 minutes of treatment
  • Women that have undergone a course of reflexology in pregnancy often find that the overall length of their labour is reduced

A casual study by Motha and McGrath (1993) on 64 women showed that it was effective in treating a range of symptoms during pregnancy. Labour length also appeared to be significantly reduced and 89% of women in the study achieved a normal vaginal delivery.

Using acupressure and/or reflexology may be very effective especially in stimulating labour as well as a means of enhancing relaxation and comfort during labour. However, I would recommend that you consult a qualified practitioner before using any of these techniques during pregnancy and childbirth.

Photography: Krisztina Konczos @Flickr 

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