Thirty minutes of acupressure at a specific point near the ankle of nulliparas, women who are giving birth for the first time, resulted in shorter length of labor, less pain, fewer cesarean sections and decreased use of oxytocin, according to a peer-reviewed study.

The research, “Effects of acupressure at the Sanyinjiao point (SP6) on the process of active phase of labor in nulliparas women,” involved 120 women between the ages of 18 and 35 who were giving birth for the first time. The expecting mothers were randomly assigned to either the case group, where they received acupressure, or the control group, where they received simple touch. The acupressure and simple touch both were performed at the beginning of the active phase of labor for each woman, when the cervix was dilated 3 to 4 centimeters and there were at least three forceful contractions, lasting 45 to 60 seconds, within 10 minutes.

In the case group, acupressure at the Sanyinjiao point (SP6), which is located near the ankle, was performed by the investigator for a total of 30 minutes during the beginning of this active phase of labor. In the control group, the investigator did nothing more than touch this point, without any massage or pressure.

Following the 30-minute time period, severity of pain was evaluated on a Visual Analogue Scale. Subjects were then continuously monitored for duration and intensity of contractions, fetal heart rate and progress of labor.

Two hours after the start of the intervention, a second pelvic exam was performed by a blinded professional. In the absence of forceful and effective contractions, a low dose of oxytocin was given to the women.

Results of the research revealed that among the women in the case group, the mean duration of the active phase of labor was shorter as compared to the control group. In addition, the number of cesarean deliveries, severity of labor pain, and the necessity for and amount of oxytocin used was less in the case group as compared to the control group.

“In conclusion, it seems that alternative therapy, including acupressure, may be effective for reducing labor and delivery time and pain,” state the study’s authors. “Based on the findings of present and previous studies, it is recommended that more trials with a greater sample size to find out the ideal method and ideal point in acupressure for obstetrical purpose are performed.

“It may then become a safe, noninvasive, easy, self- administered and nonexpensive method for reducing the delivery time and labor pain,” they added.

Authors: Maryam Kashanian and Shadab Shahali.

Sources: Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Department of Midwifery, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran. Originally published in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine (September 2009) 15: 1-4.

This research report ran in the print edition of MASSAGE Magazine‘s October 2010 issue.