Does Auricular Acupressure Work to Induce Labor?

Ear seeds have shown to be effective in many research studies for treating various symptoms and conditions. Of course, they’re not a one-size-fits-all therapy. Generally speaking, though, they’ve gotten a stamp of approval in plenty of evidence-based research. Why? Because they’re not invasive, they’re inexpensive, they’re fairly accessible, and any of their adverse effects tend to be mild and temporary.

The big question of pregnant moms, though: Does auricular acupressure work to induce labor? Well, the verdict is out. Simply put, we need more research on this topic, especially to understand the connection, if any, between labor induction outcomes and auricular acupressure (such as with ear seeds).

But we’ll be honest. We haven’t seen a lot of positive outcomes from general acupressure or acupuncture, at least not from the papers we’ve read. That’s not to say that the research points to any physical harms done by these natural treatment modalities because that’s not the case. Rather, a positive significant outcome just can’t be declared.

Let’s examine a few studies.

Acupressure and labor induction

A 2017 study included 162 pregnant women who had never had a live birth. Three acupressure points were chosen for the group receiving acupressure; the other two groups were a “sham” group (participants received acupressure but not on therapeutic points) and a control group (participants received no form of acupressure).

Researchers assessed induction-type symptoms 48 hours and 96 hours after the acupressure began, as well as when participants arrived at the hospital. Unfortunately, no significant differences were found between the groups, which means that we can’t say that acupressure is successful in getting that baby moving.

An earlier study, published in 2015, found similar results. This study included 132 women in the UK who were over 41 weeks gestation. Two acupressure points were chosen for the intervention group; there was a “sham” group as well. At the end of the study, the authors concluded that there were no significant differences in labor induction outcomes between the two groups.

So does acupressure work to induce labor? The research is limited. We haven’t seen any studies yet that suggest it works, but we’re eagerly awaiting an auricular acupressure study with ear seeds.

Acupressure’s other benefits for pregnancy, labor and delivery

While the verdict is still out on acupressure work to induce labor, let’s not forget that acupressure has other benefits for pregnant moms approaching, or in the thick of, labor and delivery.

An auricular acupressure (think ear seeds, among other types of ear acupressure) study in 2017 found that laboring women receiving this intervention had less labor pain, a shorter active phase, and a higher success rate of vaginal delivery without an episiotomy or tearing. (For reference, points used were Point Zero, Shen Men, Uterus, Pelvic, Abdomen, Spleen, External Genitalia, and Master Cerebral.)

And that’s not all.

A 2018 study found that laboring women receiving acupressure on one of two targeted points reported less pain immediately following their acupressure treatment. In addition, the duration of their labors were shorter.

Prior to this study, in 2015, researchers Mafetoni and Shimo were able to draw similar conclusions in their study. Acupressure applied to the “SP6” point for 20 minutes during laboring women’s contractions led to a significant difference in the average labor duration, reducing the time spent laboring.

Academics have been studying the SP6 point for quite some time. Another study dating back to 2004 also concluded that acupressure on this point decreases pain from labor and shortens the amount of time spent laboring.

Does acupressure work to induce labor? Maybe not, but…

As more women turn to natural methods to oust their babies, especially as they approach 42 weeks of pregnancy, acupressure might be appealing. Acupressure is generally safe, non-invasive, and natural, but more research is needed to draw determinations about whether it’s actually effective in its work to induce labor. However, not all is lost when doing acupressure, especially during labor. As the research shows, acupressure is legitimate for reducing labor pain intensity and labor duration, and we can all agree that’s a huge win!

acupressure work to induce labor


Abedi, P., Rastegar, H., Valiani, M., & Saadati, N. (2017). The Effect of Auriculotherapy on Labor Pain, Length of Active Phase and Episiotomy Rate Among Reproductive Aged Women. Journal of Family & Reproductive Health, 11(4), 185–190. PMID: 30288164 PMCID: PMC6168759

Gregson, S., Tiran, D., Absalom, J., Older, L., & Bassett, P. (2015). Acupressure for inducing labour for nulliparous women with post-dates pregnancy. Complementary therapies in clinical practice21(4), 257–261.

Lee, M. K., Chang, S. B., & Kang, D. H. (2004). Effects of SP6 acupressure on labor pain and length of delivery time in women during labor. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.)10(6), 959–965.

Najafi, F., Jaafarpour, M., Sayehmiri, K., & Khajavikhan, J. (2018). An Evaluation of Acupressure on the Sanyinjiao (SP6) and Hugo (LI4) Points on the Pain Severity and Length of Labor: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Study. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research23(1), 1–7.

Torkzahrani, S., Mahmoudikohani, F., Saatchi, K., Sefidkar, R., & Banaei, M. (2017). The effect of acupressure on the initiation of labor: A randomized controlled trial. Women and birth : journal of the Australian College of Midwives30(1), 46–50.

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