Can You Use Acupressure to Induce Labor?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
June 13, 2019

Acupuncture is perfectly safe for inducing labor near the nine-month mark. The Chinese have also identified points to help relieve shoulder and low back pain.

You won’t be alone if you’re impatient to give birth. In a small study of women at a Midwestern hospital, more than half used an at-home strategy to move things along. The most common strategies were walking, intercourse, eating spicy food, and stimulating their nipples.

Can you use acupressure to induce labor?

It can also help move the process along. In the ancient Chinese tradition of acupuncture, stimulating certain points on the body is thought to stimulate the uterus to contract. Each of these points is linked to an internal organ — even though the organs may be far away. Acupuncturists can stimulate a point with a needle, or simply by applying pressure.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, stimulation at these points prompts the body to release a flow of energy, called qi, which travels through meridians.

Acupuncture fell out of favor even in China by the early 20th century, before Mao revived the tradition in part because it was inexpensive.


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Pressure points to induce labor

The Chinese have identified six major points to induce labor. (Make sure you talk to your doctor before using this practice; you shouldn’t try it until after 40 weeks of labor, as it might induce premature labor). All you need to do is apply firm pressure for several seconds, using your thumb or perhaps your forefinger. There’s no Western explanation of why this would work, but it gives you something to do and it shouldn’t hurt you or the baby.

In this guide, you’ll see photos that show the exact location of the pressure points.

  1. Spleen 6 point (SP6) is on the back of the shin above your ankle.
  2. Pericardium 8 point (PC8) lies in the center of your palm. Make a fist and notice where your middle finger lands. Now use the thumb of your other hand to apply pressure.
  3. Bladder 32 point (BL32) is in your buttocks. Find it by running your fingers down your spine, stopping just above where the cleft between your two cheeks begins and a bit over to your right side.
  4. Bladder 67 point (BL67) lies at the end of your pinky toe, near the edge of the nail.
  5. Large intestine 4 point (LI4) lies on the back of your hand, in the crease between your thumb and pointer finger. Apply pressure here with your other thumb.
  6. Bladder 60 point (BL60O), also called the Kunlun after a mountain range, lies a few inches below SP6 in the hollow between your ankle and Achilles tendon. Work this area with your thumb.

Pressure points for pregnancy related pain

To relieve back pain before and during birth, you can focus on Gallbladder 21 (GB 21), to relax your shoulders and Liver 3 (L3) for your lower back.

Gallbladder 21 (GB 21), sits on the peak of your shoulder and a bit away from your neck. Press the points downwards. Pressure here may also relieve a headache.

Liver 3 (L3) in between your big toe and second toe relieves lower back pain during labor, and it may be helpful for anxiety.

Western scientists have found acupuncture moderately effective to treat pain, better than sham acupuncture in which the needles don’t pierce the skin. This may be because the needle stimulates a nerve, sending a signal to the brain to release beta-endorphins, chemicals that lower pain thresholds. Another theory has it that acupuncture changes cells in connective tissue around the pressure points in lasting ways that lead to less pain.


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April 08, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell RN