Researchers Hanjani, Tourzani, and Shoghi (2015) wanted to investigate the effects of foot reflexology in primigravida (first pregnancy) women during labor. The researchers had studied previous research which found that massage during labor can reduce labor pain, as well as anxiety (McNeill, Alderdice, & McMurray, 2006). Active management during labor was also found to minimize labor duration and pain as well as C-sections (Sadler, Davison, & McCowan, 2000). The researchers note that anxiety during labor can have ill effects on both mother and child, such as psychological disturbances or difficulties with delivery.
The researchers also mentioned that massage during pregnancy can have many positive effects for the mother, such as reduction of nausea, fatigue, and constipation (Mollart, 2003).
For their study, the researchers randomly tested 80 primigravida women who were in active labor. These women must not have received any pain medication or labor inducers. In addition, these women were tested to ensure they had no anxiety or psychological diseases. The women were then randomly assigned to two groups, reflexology or control.
The reflexology group received a foot massage, with fixed or rotating pressure on the pituitary gland, Solar plexus, and uterine. The control group also received a foot massage, but in other areas. The researchers took measurements of pain and anxiety before intervention, 30 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hours after beginning intervention, and at the end of intervention. The researchers also recorded the type and length of labor as well as the baby’s Apgar score at 1-minute and 5-minutes (The Apgar score is a test to check the baby’s health immediately after birth, so that medical attention may be provided if necessary. The higher the score, the better the health).
The researchers found that anxiety was significantly reduced for mothers in the reflexology group. The control group had the opposite effect, as anxiety increased during labor. Both groups, however, had substantial reductions in pain intensity throughout labor. 92.5% of mothers in the reflexology group had natural vaginal deliveries, whereas 80% of mothers in the control group delivered vaginally. Mothers in the reflexology group had pointedly shorter labor durations than the control group mothers. Lastly, babies from the reflexology group had significantly higher scores than did those of the control group.
The researchers concluded that reflexology massage during labor reduces pain intensity, anxiety, and duration of labor. It is also increases the occurrence of a natural vaginal delivery and a higher Apgar score for the child. While more research is needed, it is important to note that the effects of massage therapy has important potential for mothers in labor.
Mcneill, J. A., Alderdice, F. A., & Mcmurray, F. (2006). A retrospective cohort study exploring the relationship between antenatal reflexology and intranatal outcomes. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 12(2), 119-125. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2005.11.004
Moghimi-Hanjani, S., Mehdizadeh-Tourzani, Z., & Shoghi, M. (2015). The Effect of Foot Reflexology on Anxiety, Pain, and Outcomes of the Labor in Primigravida Women. Acta Medica Iranica, 53(8), 507-511.
Mollart, L. (2003). Single-blind trial addressing the differential effects of two reflexology techniques versus rest, on ankle and foot oedema in late pregnancy. Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery, 9(4), 203-208. doi:10.1016/s1353-6117(03)00054-4
Sadler, L. C., Davison, T., & Mccowan, L. M. (2000). A randomised controlled trial and meta-analysis of active management of labour. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 107(7), 909-915. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2000.tb11091.x