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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reducing Pain and Duration of Labor During Pregnancy: Acupressure Point

A study conducted in 2004 has some very interesting and useful information for pregnant women, as well as their caregivers. This study describes how a very simple technique, which can be applied by anyone, can reduce the pain of labor. More importantly, this technique was found to significantly reduce the time of the first stage of labor, between 3cm cervical dilation and full dilation.
While the duration of the second stage of labor did not differ significantly, the effect on the first stage of labor is clinically significant. Due to the pregnancy, there are fewer medications that can be prescribed to assist with the duration of the first stage of labor. Additionally, even medications that are deemed safe for pregnancy can have unpredictable consequences, as each person and each pregnancy can react differently. For this reason, non-pharmacological interventions (such as pre-natal massage and acupuncture) are always preferable to pharmacological ones.

I have spoken to a number of obstetricians and gynecologists, who have stated that the results of this study would be useful to them. With regard to actually performing this technique, it is simple enough to teach to the spouse or other loved one who is present, so that they can administer the technique during all of the stages of labor. Even though the first phase of labor is the only one that showed an effective shortening, this technique was still shown to reduce pain and lessen the need for pharmacological pain-killers. (A certified pre-natal massage therapist or certified acupuncturist can also demonstrate the technique to expectant parents sometime before labor)

The most popular and effective pain-killer used during labor is an epidural. However, pregnant women are not often advised that this method can actually prolong the second phase of labor, which is the pushing stage. Click here to view the study

There are also other effects that can occur from an epidural, including the risk of temporary or permanent nerve damage, many women need to have a catheter inserted in order to eliminate, and it can make you feel itchy, shivery, or fevered. Most importantly, epidurals increase the risk of your blood pressure falling, which can increase the risk for the baby needing assistance due to improper positioning for birth. Epidurals also wear off after a certain amount of time and require the services of a specialized doctor, known as an anesthetist. When the medication wears off, the anesthetist must be called again, and they may not be readily available. This is according to the website - click here . A number of these risks may not be discussed with you by your doctor, so it is important to find out about your pain relieving options well before your labor starts.

Pregnant women and their care-givers can easily administer this technique to laboring women, and it is something that more midwives and obstetricians should be using. The SP6 acupressure point is located on the inner calf of the lower leg, four finger widths above this inner ankle, at the back border of the leg bone. A diagram or photograph could be provided to the spouse or caregiver providing the acupressure, and the acupressure is applied during each contraction for 30 seconds. Although this was the model used in the experiment, it is also possible that continued application of pressure to SP6 during labor would have a similar effect on the duration of labor and intensity of pain.

As a simple intervention that nearly anyone can apply, this acupressure massage technique can be useful for most pregnant women, whether in hospitals, birthing centers, or at home. Midwives and obstetricians may find the study useful in their own practices as well.

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