Acupressure increases the release of pain-killing hormones from the brain called endorphins. These morphine-like hormones have been proven to be more powerful than some drugs. During a natural childbirth, these hormones are naturally released however acupressure helps the brain release more of them into the blood stream. In fact a recent study conducted in the emergency wards of major Melbourne hospitals found acupuncture was more effective than painkillers in acute injury.
Acupressure is one part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has been around for over 3000 years. It is achieved by holding firm pressure with your fingers to specific points on the body.
The first time I used acupressure was on a triathlete during a race way back in the late nineties at an indoor event on a velodrome. The poor guy had lost a shoe and decided to keep on running without it which proved to be a terrible mistake! He lost a fair bit of skin off the bottom of his foot and, in a great deal of pain, came into the medical area where I was volunteering. I got him up on the table and with no pain killers around and no other way to treat him I started applying firm, steady pressure on the acupressure points specific for pain relief. After a few minutes the endorphins kicked in and his pain settled. As a new graduate, I was gobsmacked! Having been in the industry for 25 years now I’ve seen this sort of thing time and time again.
So how does this relate to child birth? When the contractions start, they start with mild to moderate pain and come in a wave-like pattern. Applying acupressure early and frequently helps to keep the endorphins flowing in time with this pattern and helps make the contractions bearable. The example I gave and the recent study show the power of this therapy in acute conditions; birth being one of the most natural and acute of all.
During my son’s birth, we were able to control the pain this way as my partner went from 1cm to 9cm dilated in 2 hours. As this is an incredibly short time for a first-time mum to go from 1 to 9 cm she was in considerable pain. Being able to help in a natural way with acupressure was an amazing experience and one I’ll treasure forever.