Reflexology for Labour by Hannah Johnson of Hannah Johnson Therapies, Barnet.
‘Can Reflexology Induce Labour?’
This is something I get asked a lot and I usually tell the following story. When I was 38 weeks pregnant with my daughter, I was feeling heavy, uncomfortable and keen to meet my baby as most women are. I was hoping for a natural birth and kept looking online for answers…what did that twinge mean? Was that a sign of impending labour? Basically, my baby couldn’t come soon enough.
Being a Reflexologist I started to play around with the reflexes I knew I should press to induce labour. Four days later I had given birth to my beautiful baby girl. To be honest I had really surprised myself. Well, Reflexology had surprised me.
Despite them being the same reflexes I’d worked on, on dozens of clients in the same position, it was somehow different having worked on myself. It felt powerful and really connected me even more to this amazing therapy.
So how does Reflexology work?
Reflexology works on different levels, a physical level as well as an emotional and energetic level.
The idea behind Reflexology is that the feet mirror the body and so by pressing points on the feet this will in turn stimulate different parts of the body.
After 38 weeks, we can use Reflexology techniques to stimulate the uterus and ovary reflexes as well the production of Oxytocin to help bring on labour naturally.
The mind and body are inextricably linked so to say we can work on one without influencing the other is just not possible.
Reflexology is a very relaxing treatment and works on the nervous system helping the body to change from the sympathetic nervous system of high energy, ‘fight or flight’ mode and into a calm and relaxed parasympathetic state.
When we are in a parasympathetic state our cortisol (stress) levels decrease which also allows for other areas of our brain to be stimulated encouraging rest, healing, sleep and natural processes in the body to occur.
In terms of pregnancy and labour, it is obvious that our bodies are not going to want to bring a baby into the world if we are in a ‘fight or flight’ state, as your brain perceives threat or danger. It needs to be in a relaxed, safe state.
This is why you often find women are progressing with their labour at home, arrive in hospital to bright lights and noise and find their contractions stop. This is a shock to the nervous system which is looking for a safe, dark, quiet place to birth the baby.
What can you do?
Book in a session or two with a Reflexologist who specialises in pregnancy and labour.
Recent studies have shown that women who had regular Reflexology sessions throughout their pregnancy had a significantly shorter first stage of labour as well as decreased pain throughout (1).
A second study showed that Reflexology improved the quality of sleep in Post Natal Women (2).
If you are at the end of your pregnancy you can access ebooks like mine which show you step by step how to work on the Reflexology points yourself as well as covering the topic of The Mindset of Labour and Birth, as I honestly don’t think you can separate the physical and mental/emotional aspects of birthing.
It is important to remember that Reflexology is a complementary therapy not a magic fix and if you and/or your baby are not ready then Reflexology alone isn’t necessarily going to encourage them out. In saying that, if the time is right it could be just the thing your body needs to get things going!
(1) Valliani M et al (2010) Reviewing the effect of reflexology on pain and outcomes of the labour of primiparous women. Iranian Journal of Midwifery and Research 15 (Dec) p302-310
(2) Li C Y et al (2011) Randomised controlled trial of the effects of foot reflexology to improve the quality of sleep amongst post partum women. Midwifery 27 p181-186