Pregnancy: Prebirth Acupuncture and Acupressure
For the latest information go to my new website at

Acupuncture is useful in the final three to four weeks of pregnancy to prepare you for childbirth. Research has demonstrated shorter labour times following prebirth acupuncture (1). In German hospitals a standard acupuncture protocol is now accepted practice to prepare women for labour. Acupuncture is an ideal method to help women prepare themselves to have the most efficient labour possible. Feedback from midwives suggests that acupuncture before birth offers a range of positive effects that goes beyond reducing the time spent in labour and includes a reduced rate of medical intervention, such as inductions and caesarean sections (2). It was also noted by the midwives in this study that they observed a trend in the women who received pre-birth acupuncture to either go into spontaneous labour around their term, 40-41 weeks, and these women also tended to respond well to acupuncture induction and progressed efficiently into a natural labour.

Weekly acupuncture sessions prior to your labour will specifically help prepare your body for birth, with an emphasis on preparing cervical ripening (3), relaxing muscle and tendon tension in the pelvis to allow widening of the pelvis, descending the baby and swivelling transverse or posterior babies. Other pregnancy discomforts, such as pregnancy-induced-hypertension, sciatica, heartburn, anxiety and others, can also be addressed. Acupuncture for birth should be started at week 36 or 37. However, even if labour is imminent, just one session will be beneficial. Acupuncture induction can be done after your due date has passed.

Acupressure for labour

Acupressure is the use of pressure on acupuncture points on the body. Acupressure can be applied by the woman and her birthing partner before and during labour. It is easy and fun to learn and can help promote an efficient labour. Research has suggested it is particularly useful for pain relief during labour (4).

Tracey Goulding can teach women and their birth partners how to use acupressure to help:

  • encourage spontaneous labour
  • aid contractions to get going in a slow or stop/start labour
  • pain relief
  • enhance dilation of the cervix
  • cervical lip
  • relieve nausea and vomiting during labour
  • aid the baby to descend
  • swivel babies when they are back-to-back or sideways/transverse
  • bring calm if the mother is anxious or fearful
  • helping to deliver the placenta after birth
  • reduce afterpains
  • breastfeeding, by encouraging the let-down reflex

Acupressure provides many useful ways to enhance the body’s own ability to bring the labour into its most efficient capacity.

Acupressure for Natural Pain Relief in Labour DVD
by Debra Betts and Tom Kennedy

Acupressure DVD

This DVD is an excellent resource for women and their birth partners. It is easy to follow and comes with a booklet. Practise at home before labour starts, so you and your partner feel confident and comfortable with locating the acupressure points.
You can purchase the DVD at the Journal of Chinese Medicine.

(1) Kubista E, Kucera H. (1974). On the use of acupuncture in the preparation for delivery, Geburtshilfe Perinatol; 178(3):224-9.
(2) Betts D, Lenox S ( 2006) Acupuncture For Prebirth Treatment: An Observational Study of its use in Midwifery practice. Medical Acupuncture. Vo 17 No 3
(3) Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P. Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a randomised controlled trail. Wien Klin Wochenschr 2001; 113 (23-24): 942-6
(4) Hjelmstedt A, Shenoy ST, Stener-Victorin E, Lekander M, Bhat M, Balakumaran L, Waldenström U. Acupressure to reduce labor pain. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2010 Nov;89(11):1453-9.