A pilot study of acupressure massage on women in labour when given by their birth partners

By Cheryl Mason


Acupressure massage has been promoted in New Zealand as an effective labour room tool to reduce the need for analgesia and increase the chances of a normal intervention free birth. When birth partners are taught how to administer acupressure, the techniques are also reported to increase birth satisfaction for women and their birth partners.

A pilot study was conducted at St Peter's Hospital, Chertsey, Surrey to evaluate the impact of acupressure on labouring women and their birth partners.
Interventions: Teaching of a half hour acupressure massage workshop to women and their birth partners to use during labour. No intervention for control group. Twenty five of the original sixty seven recruits actually utilised acupressure in labour. In the control group, there were thirty three respondents from the original forty five recruits.

Data was collected from the Birth register to indicate the outcome of each birth (ie. Spontaneous Vaginal, Instrumental, Caesarean), uptake of other types of analgesia, length of labour, and any maternal or neonatal complications. Questionnaires were filled in separately by women and their birth partners for the acupressure and the control groups.

Results: Women randomised into the Acupressure Group had a higher rate of spontaneous vaginal delivery and lower rate of caesarean section. The primigravida women averaged a much shorter length of labour compared with the control. Epidural rates were virtually equal for both groups whilst pethidine analgesic uptake was slightly less for the acupressure group. The acupressure group had favourable outcomes in terms of maternal and neonatal complications. Women largely felt that acupressure delayed their need for other analgesia and felt it was positively helpful in labour. Women and Birth Partners felt much higher levels of birth satisfaction.

Conclusions: Acupressure massage given to women in labour by their birth partners offers a valuable and safe tool which may facilitate a shorter labour with less intervention. Although it may delay the need for other pain relief it does appear to significantly impact the overall need for other analgesia. It also promotes feelings of control and a greater degree of emotional satisfaction for both women and their birth partners.