Foot reflexology and acupressure in labor

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Marie-Ange Demory
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Foot reflexology and acupressure in labor

Millennial oriental medicines, and in particular traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, have always paid special attention to the therapeutic value of touch with the hands. Lpressure on some points of the body was initially used as a rebalancing of the energy field, only to observe that the touch of these points provided benefits in certain organs of the body. This is how foot reflexology was born and acupressure, studying the effects of pressure on the different points of the body, a sort of map of the points has been created. Depending on the desired effect, today we know exactly which point corresponds to a particular part of the body.





Read also: Natural Childbirth

How do they work?

There are several theories on the working principle of these manual techniques. A first theory argues that by stimulating with digital pressure, the reflex nerve endings of that particular point of the body would send a message to the brain urging it to act. Another theory holds that it would stimulate the endocrine system to produce endorphins, our anti-pain hormones, thus solving the problem. A third theory still maintains that it would act on a psychological level, and, since the mind and the perception of pain play a fundamental role in the physical expression of pain / disorder this would help to mitigate it. To date there are actually no scientific validations, or better, of Western allopathic medicine, regarding the use of these techniques. In fact, they are not recognized as medical practices but massage or physiotherapy.



In fact, our official allopathic medicine maintains that the positive effects of these manual techniques are not sufficiently explainable, because in many cases the placebo effect takes over, i.e. the subject is so convinced of the efficacy of the therapy that, even if he is administered a therapy different from the one the study wants to analyze, it has positive effects. However, if we analyze their use we can say that it is also spreading in Europe and in the United States, too in some hospitals, as an alternative technique which often produces a positive result especially in some particular situations including labor for childbirth.

Can it be used during pregnancy?

Traditional oriental medicine recognizes a very important role to pregnant women, as generators of life. Therefore, specific points have been studied to alleviate the typical ailments of pregnant women and make sure that she completes her birth in the best conditions, allowing life to be born. It will clearly be a different acupressure compared to non-pregnant women both from the point of view of the intensity of the pressure, which becomes lighter, and from the point of view of the points to be treated. In fact, some points can induce contractions and if used very early in pregnancy can lead to abortion or premature labor.



Can they be used in labor?

In labor the acupressure compared to foot reflexology. In fact, the second is simply used as a generic massage to stimulate lymphatic drainage when the feet and legs are particularly swollen at the end of pregnancy. Acupressure instead is used to reduce the pain of childbirth and make the contractions more effective. The points to be touched can be different (all located along the meridian lines) throughout labor because the conditions of labor, the effectiveness and also the feeling of well-being felt by the woman can change. It is usually recommended to start early in labor by listening to the woman regarding the intensity and duration of the pressure. The important thing is that the pressure at the chosen point must be firm. This implies that those who perform acupressure are also present and concentrated, otherwise the pressure variation does not induce the desired effect.

What are the main points for labor?

There are many points that can be helpful in labor but 5 specifically prove to have the greatest effect.

  • 4LI is the first point we consider. It is located on the back of the hand. If we press with the thumb of one hand into the hollow that is created between the thumb and forefinger of the other, we find a point that initially makes us feel a little pain. That is the point we are referring to. During labor, this point can have an analgesic effect, i.e. pain reduction, so much so that the woman alone in the pauses between a contraction and the other can use pressure. From the osteric point of view, however, the pressure of this point regulates the effectiveness of the contractions and facilitates the progression of the baby even when the woman is very tired at the end of labor.
  • 32BL is the second point. In this case the woman does not it can perform the pressure on its own because it is located at the level of the sacrum. Where there are two small depressions in the upper part of the sacrum. This point is also intended to decrease pain but also to stimulate contractions. The woman in labor can help the effect with free movement.
  • 6SP is the third point that we are going to consider. Using the woman's hand we calculate 4 fingers above the ankle bone on the inside of the leg. It is a very sensitive point even to the touch and is therefore easily identifiable. In this case the pressure on the point has the function of regularize the contractions and thus facilitate dilation. Acupressure on this point is therefore used very often at the beginning of labor when the contractions are still not regular. Once the regularization has taken place the pressure may have ceased.
  • 60BL the fourth point, is always positioned in the lower part of the body and specifically behind the external ankle bone where a dimple is formed. This point also stimulates effective and regular contractions but can have an analgesic effect and can help, once the baby is born, to expel the placenta first and then to complete the birth definitively.
  • 67BL is the fifth and final point. It is a rather particular point that is used only when the baby inside the belly is positioned with the back turned to that of the mother and therefore with the face looking forward, towards the belly. It is the point that is also stimulated during pregnancy with moxa, technique that provides heat, to attempt the overturning (overturning) of breech babies. It is located at the base of the outer nail of the little toe. Being a very small point you can use the rounded tip of a pencil to get there and it must be “pressed” until the contractions are regular every 2-4 minutes.

Who can perform acupressure techniques?

It is important to point out that it would be better if we didn't improvise as experts in traditional Chinese medicine, that is, that without adequate training we would not start using the points we have said above. There are trained experts who have years of experience and who spot the points immediately and can guide you in their recognition. As a midwife, during the birth accompaniment courses, I like to explain to the partners who will attend the birth the easiest points to find to give relief to the mother. In short, a way to involve the partner in an event from which they often feel excluded. However, if you do not find experienced people in this field who assist you during labor, I repeat that it is good not to improvise. Acupressure on different points, sometimes very close, it can have effects contrary to what we expect and create more problems than anything else. In my opinion, therefore, the support of unconventional medicines used by those who are trained in this regard can be a valid support for labor and delivery, clearly this should not exclude a "traditional" health surveillance that always ensures the well-being of mother and child.

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