Can reflexology induce labour and help reduce labour pains?
Reflexology is a popular complementary therapy to other forms of pain relief in labour. But can it get rid of labour pains on its own? Can it bring on labour, too? Here's everything you need to know about reflexology and birth...
We know there are many drug-free pain relief options that mums report to be brilliant during labour - such as birth hypnotherapy and water births.
But is reflexology up there with the best of them - or is it simply a complementary therapy to other forms of pain relief?
Rumour has it that the alternative treatment can help to induce labour AND reduce labour pains. Pretty impressive if true, right?
So, we've done some investigating to see how just how accurate that really is ?
What is reflexology?
Reflexology is an alternative medicine practice which involves applying pressure using your thumbs, finger and hands to the feet – in order to stimulate different parts of the body.
According to reflexology charts (like the one you can see above), each part of the foot represents a different part of the body, like the heart, the lungs and the kidneys.
How can you use reflexology in labour?
Usually, a reflexology session lasts between 30 - 60 minutes, and is performed by a trained practitioner.
For a due pregnant woman, the practitioner would help stimulate the pituitary gland (on the base of both big toes) in order induce hormones that can ‘speed up’ labour.
These sessions can continue into labour in timed intervals, in order to help keep the soon-to-be mum calm, or ease a little bit of pain.
Sometimes, reflexology can also be done by your partner – but only if they’ve spent a good amount of time training and learning to do it properly.
Who can have reflexology during labour?
During pregnancy, reflexology is not suitable for women with a history of miscarriage, a risk of pre-eclampsia or other pregnancy complications. We’d say the same applies for labour, too.
Always speak to a medical professional like your GP or midwife before starting any alternative medicine treatment, especially when you're expecting.
This is important, too: you can’t have reflexology if you have DVT (deep vein thrombosis) or any other blood-clotting issue.
It can put you at serious risk of the clot travelling to your heart. It’s also not suitable if you have any sort of foot injury.
How effective is reflexology at easing labour pain?
Well, there’s not a lot of evidence out there to give you a big stat all about how expert foot-rubbing is going to take away the pain of giving birth.
But it has been reported that in some cases, it seems to promote a shorter, easier labour.
We’ve also heard it said that the calming and pain-easing effects of reflexology in labour kick in after about 2 minutes, before the full effect takes hold at around 15 minutes.
We have come across a couple of very small studies and reviews, though, that do suggest that reflexology has an impact on pain intensity.
A small review of previous reflexology studies by researchers at Iran’s Ishafan University noted several studies which found that labouring women who’d used reflexology were more comfortable, and that their pain was less intense than those who hadn’t.
They concluded: “Properly using of this technique, reflexology can reduce the labor pain…
“Generally, the results of this study - which include reducing the length of the labor, labor pain intensity, postpartum hemorrhage and improving Apgar score - can play an important role in promoting mothers’ health and their satisfaction.”
Can reflexology induce or 'speed up' labour?
The theory goes that stimulating the pituitary gland using pressure on the feet releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps to induce labour.
As we mentioned above, there's not a whole load of direct evidence proving that actually brings on labour.
There is the general vibe, though, that it can help quicken the labour itself up a bit.
Trying reflexology to speed things up has also been a total mixed bag for our MFM mums – though most of them DID report good, relatively quick labours.
"I had 2 sessions of reflexology when I went overdue, they were 2 days in a row.
"I have no idea if it had anything to do with my labour but I spent 4 hours at home and when I eventually couldn't cope anymore I arrived at the hospital and was fully dilated!
"Reflexology is supposed to get your bits ready for labour so I'm hoping my £60 was worth it!! I had the reflexology on the Tues and Weds and had my baby boy on the Saturday," wrote Lisa D.
"I used reflexology when trying to conceive and throughout my pregnancy and found it really relaxing," added Emsy4.
"I had a session about 5 days before my due date and got her to work really hard on my feet to bring on labour but it didn't have any effect and I went 2 weeks overdue in the end!
"I had a really good labour though, despite being induced - just less than 4 hours! x"
However, it certainly didn’t work for many due and overdue mums – not that they minded the treatment...
“I had it a couple of times at 40+1 and 41 weeks,” shared HJLmumdrum. “It didn't bring on labour for me... it was super relaxing though and did help with my swollen feet!”
Hmm… looks like the jury's still out on this one!
Share your story
Have you tried reflexology sessions during labour? Perhaps you've had a really positive - or disappointing - experience with this alternative treatment?
We'd love to know either way. Get in touch in the comments below, on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter
Images: Getty Images
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