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This blog is about how your birth partner can use shiatsu, massage and acupressure points to relieve pain in labour. It orginally appeared in the  Forces magazine: “Just 4 her”. It appears on p21 of Issue 4, 2013.

Shiatsu is rather like massage but uses static pressure more than the flowing strokes of massage and it also includes the points and meridians of acupuncture. For more information on shiatsu read What is shiatsu

You might also like to find out about how massage and shiatsu can be helpful during your pregnancy some frequently asked questions about receiving shiatsu and massage in pregnancy and how to find a suitably qualified practitioner.

How to involve your birth partner by using shiatsu,  massage and acupressure points to relieve pain in labour

This issue I want to explain how your birth partner, who might be your husband but could be your mother/sister can learn some techniques using shiatsu, massage and acupressure points to relieve pain in labour which can also support you during the end of your pregnancy and help you prepare for your birth.

Sometimes it is easy to forget, in today’s medical setting for birth, that for most women, birth can be an enjoyable event. Of course we need medical care to support in those rare cases where there are complications, but often there are very simple things which you can do yourself, even during medical proceedures, which can help you stay calm and relaxed.

I’d like to share a couple of techniques from my book “Beautiful Birth”. They are the two of the most popular tools I teach.

Relieving labour pain in the lower back: shiatsu, massage and acupressure points to relieve pain in labour

Pressure on the bony part of the lower back (the sacrum)

This may help to :

Relieve any pain in your lower back which you may be experiencing in pregnancy due to the increasing weight of your baby here.

Encourage your baby to get into a  good position for birth, by easing their spine away from your back and giving them more space.

Support your connection with your body and baby so that you may even enjoy your birth

Relieve  lower back pain during labour

Support the connection between you and your partner.

Firm, slow effleurage/stroking can be pain relieving. However most women find that they respond even more favourably to pressure. This can be applied generally to the whole of the bone as well as the 4 pairs of points in the bony indentations of the sacrum.

Pressure during a contraction directly relaxes this area as well as the whole pelvis and can provide pain relief as well as allowing labour to progress. Sometimes mothers like the pressure to be continued between contractions, although usually not as intensely. Sometimes between contractions, gentle stroking over the lower back, or maybe down the legs, or lighter general pressure can help with relaxation and conserving or renewing energy, ready for the next contraction.

The picture is from p56 of “Beautiful Birth”

Relieving pain in labour with shiatsu and massage

Massage for labour

All fours is a great position to practise in – but in labour you can try any position, where you can access the back. These are good techniques for the mother to practice on her partner – so try to practice it sometimes that way round.

How to give pressure to the sacrum: Shiatsu, massage and acupressure points to relieve pain in labour

It is possible to give very strong pressure on the sacrum and this is usually what mothers want, but only use the amount of pressure she needs.

This can be done any time from the second trimester of pregnancy.

Start with the mother leaning over a ball or a chair. You can place a towel or blanket over the ball to make it a bit more comfortable or put a cushion over the back of the chair.

The partner also needs to find a comfortable position. Depending on their height, this could be standing up or kneeling by the mother. The most important thing is that the partner can lean their weight forward into their hips, so that any increase in pressure is applied by leaning more body weight into their arms, rather than pushing down from the shoulders. The partner’s shoulders need to be completely relaxed as they work.

Begin by placing one hand on the mother’s abdomen and one hand on her back and spend a little time relaxing together, breathing and becoming aware of your baby.

You can find some further detail on this with

Then place one hand on top of the other in a criss-cross pattern, the fingers of the lower hand facing up the spine. Relax your hands and allow them to mould to the shape of the mother’s body. Begin at the level of the hips. Hold for a few breaths, feeling how much pressure is comfortable for the mother. Then slide your two hands down an inch or so that you are lower down. Repeat this until you are at the bottom of the sacrum, which is the coccyx. Repeat this a few times, gradually building up to the maximum pressure which is comfortable for the mother as you do so.  Make sure that the pressure applied is at an angle of 90’ to the mother’s body.

 Opening your hands: a way of relaxing: with the open hand you can work shiatsu, massage and acupressure points to relieve pain in labour 

Another simple technique is simply opening your hands and also applying some pressure to an acupressure point in the centre of your palm (HP8).

Tighten your hands by clenching your fingers and drawing them to the centre of your palm. Notice what happens to your breathing and to your pelvis. Now open out your hands and relax them. Focus on the point in the centre of the palm (HP8) and feel like you are breathing out through here. You can imagine that your hand is like a flower opening.

How to work

Heart Protector 8 which is using shiatsu, massage and acupressure to relieve pain in labour

The mother could be in any position and the partner simply strokes down her arms from the shoulders and finishes holding the holding HP8.hand. It can be nice to finish up holding the mothers hands while you face her. This can be very reassuring if the mother wants close contact, especially eye contact with you.

Heart protector 8: a shiatsu acupressure point to relieve pain in labour

This point is associated with the heart and fire, it has the effect of calming the emotions.

It can be very good if the mother is feeling panicky and uneasy. It can be useful if the mother is not feeling comfortable in her environment or is feeling disconnected from her baby. It can also be used if you need to have medical intervention and are confined to bed.

This is also a wonderful point for calming a new born baby if they are feeling a little upset. Simply hold their hands.

I hope that you have enjoyed learning something about how shiatsu, massage and acupressure points relieve pain in labour. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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