A study in England on 66 post-term women (those who attended a hospital clinic after 40 weeks gestation) showed that women who employed shiatsu techniques were significantly more likely to have spontaneous labor than the non-shiatsu group who more frequently required induced labor.

“The Effects of Shiatsu on Post-Term Pregnancy” evaluated the effects of shiatsu techniques, as taught by hospital midwives, on the progress of post-term labors and deliveries. The study was conducted by staff at St. Michael’s Hospital, Bristol, England, from March to July 2000.

The subjects attended a hospital consultant clinic appointment at 40 weeks gestation and were taught the massage techniques by a midwife who had completed a six-day shiatsu course. The control group consisted of 76 women who attended similar clinics but were not taught the shiatsu techniques.

Three shiatsu points were taught to the experimental group: Gall Bladder 21 (GB-21), Large Intestine 4 (LI-4) and Spleen 6 (S-6). All points were held with thumb pressure until the woman experienced a reaction. Once a reaction was felt, the woman was instructed to work the point deeply and firmly for as long and as often as was comfortable to her. Exercises and breathing techniques were also taught to the experimental group, and the women were encouraged to use the shiatsu techniques at home.

Outcome information for both groups was audited, including induction, type of delivery, length of labor and analgesia used. The women in the experimental group completed a questionnaire to document their use of shiatsu.

The women who used shiatsu were significantly more likely to labor spontaneously than those who did not (p=0.038). Of those who used shiatsu, 17 percent more went into spontaneous labor than those who were not taught shiatsu. Of those who completed the audit questionnaire, 80 percent found the shiatsu techniques helpful.

“This preliminary study raises the hypothesis that the use of specific shiatsu techniques on post-term women by midwives reduces the number of labors that need to be induced pharmacologically,” the authors conclude.

Source: St. Michael’s Hospital, Bristol, England. Authors: Jennifer Ingram, Celina Domagala and Suzanne Yates. Originally published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 13, Issue 1, March 2005, Pages 11–15.