Exploring the effects of antenatal reflexology on pregnancy and labour outcomes: An experimental study

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Background: The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence states that from the onset of the second stage of labour, nulliparous women are expected to give birth within three hours, and within two hours for multiparous women. If labour has not progressed within two hours or one hour respectively, labour is diagnosed as delayed and should be referred for possible intervention. Reflexology is a complementary therapy involving the application of controlled pressure to specific points, mainly on the feet. Limited evidence indicates that antenatal reflexology may influence labour and birth outcomes. Aim and Objective: The aim of this study was to test the effects of antenatal reflexology on labour outcomes in a sample of primiparous women suffering from pregnancy related low back and/ or pelvic girdle pain (LBPGP). Methods: A three-armed randomised controlled trial was conducted. Ninety primiparous women with a singleton pregnancy experiencing LBPGP had six weekly 30-minute reflexology treatments compared to sham (footbath) treatments or usual care. Labour outcome data including labour onset, duration of the second stage of labour, epidural and Entonox usage, and mode of delivery was collected and analysed using one-way ANOVA and independent t-tests. Ethical approval was granted by the author’s institution Research Ethics Committee and regional Office of Research Ethics Committees. Findings: Labour outcomes were collected for 61 women (95.3%) who completed the study. The second stage of labour duration data, available for 42 women (62.5%) who had vaginal births, showed a mean reduction of 44 minutes in the reflexology group (73.56 minutes; SD=53.78) compared to the usual care (117.92 minutes; SD=56.15) (p<0.05) and footbath groups (117.4 minutes; SD=68.54) (p=0.08). There were no differences in labour onset, pain relief or mode of delivery. No adverse effects were reported. Conclusions: Primiparous women experiencing LBPGP during pregnancy who received antenatal reflexology had a reduction in second stage of labour duration of 43 minutes compared with usual care and footbaths. Implications for practice: Reflexology is suitable for use during pregnancy, safe and enjoyable and may reduce labour duration. Midwives may wish to recommend reflexology to promote normal childbirth and facilitate women centred care.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTrinity Health and Education Conference
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 Mar 2020


  • midwifery pregnancy
  • Reflexology
  • quantitative research
  • labour duration


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