Reflexology: Can it Help You Cope with Labor?

What is Reflexology?
Reflexology operates on the assumption that pressure applied to certain points on the body can relieve pain and improve the function of certain organs. A reflexologist uses hands only to apply gentle pressure to the feet, and sometimes the hands. For each person the application and the effect of the therapy is unique. Sensitive, trained hands can detect tiny deposits and imbalances in the feet, and by working on these points the reflexologist can release blockages and restore the free flow of energy to the whole body. Tensions are eased, and circulation and elimination is improved.

During labor, practitioners have found that by applying pressure to points on the feet they can stimulate the pituitary gland to release hormones that will accelerate the labor process and reduce pain. A 1988 study conducted by the Association of Reflexologists in London, England showed that continual reflexology treatments during pregnancy were instrumental in treating conditions like heartburn, hypertension, irritable uterus, edema and immunological stress.

Reflexology was used during labor as an alternative to drugs to stimulate labor and reduce pain. Women ages 20 to 25 had an average first-time labor of five or six hours, with some labors lasting only two to three hours. Second-time mothers between the ages of 26 and 30 appeared to have the longest labors, while several 40 year old first-time mothers experienced only two to three hour labors.

The study showed that reflexology also reduced pain levels during labor and a high proportion of women receiving reflexology did not need anesthesia or other interventions. In addition, reflexology accelerated the release of the placenta in 79 percent of women receiving treatments. In a separate study conducted in the Ante Natal Clinic, Dr. Gowri Motha found that weekly reflexology treatments of between 30 to 45 minutes relieved hypertension and helped avoid hospitalization after birth.

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