Labor Massage and Acupressure For Pain Relief

Labor is a human experience that spans a multitude of emotional states. Women will feel joy, pain, happiness, sadness, anger, love, fear, apprehension, courage, bravery, and a host of other feelings that will come and go in preparation for bringing new life into the world.

One overriding thought of many women during labor is “Can I deal with the pain?”. The true answer is yes. A woman is built to endure the physical and emotional stress of childbirth. Her body will release hormones during labor that will lessen pain, contract the uterus, prevent hemorrhaging, and protect mother and baby during labor. Of course, much of the strength and ability to deal with the pain is found inside of the pregnant woman herself. The rest of the labor pain management will come from the woman’s support personnel, such as a husband, doula, and/or midwife.

The support person has probably been told that massaging the laboring woman is beneficial in helping her deal with the pain. Massage the low back. Massage the shoulders.  Massage the hips. Massage where it hurts. The attending support person will be asked to do this many times over the course of the labor period in varying degrees of pressure.

Massage is already known to be useful in managing the pain of labor. Massaging a painful area reduces intensity of pain, in most cases. It seems to innately occur during labor, by a loving husband or family member. Acupressure, though, is still a growing segment of a labor management plan. Like massage, acupressure uses the hands to manipulate the woman’s body. But, the focus is on pressing certain acupuncture points with the fingers, in order to provoke a certain response based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This acupressure is a focused style of massage that can aid the smooth progression of the entire labor process. Using acupressure in combination with regular massage will allow the support person to play an even larger part in the labor and delivery process.

Some of the acupressure points (in no particular order) that can be used during labor:

  • SP-6 (Sanyinjiao) – Can help with cervical dilation and used to promote labor
  • UB-67 (Zhiyin) – Can be used to help turn the baby, if in a posterior position
  • LI-4 (Hegu) – Used to stabilize and regulate contractions, reduce pain, promote delivery of placenta
  • LV-3 (Taiyin) – Can help with cervical dilation and ease emotional constraint and apprehension
  • UB-32(Ciliao) – Helps relieve back pain and resolves cervical lip
  • GB-21(Jianjing) – Helps relieve pain and promote descending of baby
  • UB-60(Kunlun) – Can help to reposition baby from posterior position and helps in delivery of placenta

Using massage and acupressure in labor can: help mother to focus, organize labor contractions, progress stalled labor, alleviate nausea, reduce pain. Massage and acupressure can both be utilized in all 3 stages of labor, from prelabor through to delivery of the placenta.

As a support person, some of the keys to providing good massage and acupressure during labor:

  1. Listen to the laboring woman. Usually, the woman knows exactly where the support person’s hands should be placed and what pressure should be used.
  2. Understand the different stages of labor, so that the acupressure can be modified to move along with the labor.
  3. Practice. Acupressure and massage techniques are most valuable when correct posture and body mechanics are being used. Proper form and technique will reduce fatigue. Ask your acupuncturist, massage therapist, or other labor specialist to go over these techniques with you.
  4. Enlist the aid of massage tools.  This can reduce the strain on the hands and may provide pinpoint accuracy in stimulating acupressure points.

August Point Wellness offers private classes on massage and acupressure during labor. Please inquire for details and visit our website:

NOTE:  Acupuncture is a powerful ally that can be used in a managed labor plan.  Some acupuncturists will also offer to be on call in order to be available to administer acupuncture during your labor. Please ask your acupuncturist if this is can be an option for you. Some hospitals will not allow L.Ac’s to perform acupuncture in the labor and delivery room.  Please contact your hospital for more information.  Many birth centers see the benefits and will allow the use of acupuncture and other natural therapies to be performed during the labor process.  Please contact your birth center for more information.

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