Ten studies show the impact of reflexology on issues important to expectant mothers. Research shows that women given reflexology work during pregnancy or labor experienced shorter labor times and less analgesia use. In addition, reflexology work aided with the problems of retention of the placenta and primary inertia during labor, helping the women avoid surgery or medication.

Reflexology during pregnancy

Pregnant women given 10 reflexology sessions from 20 weeks into their pregnancies to term experienced a better labor time than textbook figures. The average for those receiving reflexology work was: first stage, 5 hours; second stage, 16 minutes; and third stage, 7 minutes. This compared to textbook figures of 16 to 24 hours’ first stage, and, 1 to 2 hour’s second stage. In addition, 89.0% of the women experienced a normal delivery.

One study found that women who received 4 or more sessions experienced less analgesia use and more forceps deliveries. In comparison to the control group who received no reflexology treatment, they showed no difference in onset of labor and duration of labor. (2) Questions have been raised about validity of this study: “The findings should not be taken as particularly significant clinical value since some of the women received only one session of reflexology at 39 weeks.” (http://www.expectancy.co.uk/docs/expectancyreview.pdf)

Reflexology during labor

Research demonstrated that reflexology given to women during labor showed a 90% effective rate as a pain killer during delivery. (3); Another study showed an effective analgesia rate of 94.4%.

Women in the foot reflexology group of one study experienced an average birth process of 2.48 + 1.48 hours versus the control group (intravenous drip of 10% glucose plus a vitamin C injection) with an average birth process of 3.32 + 1.19 hours

Reflexology was applied in two 30 minute sessions to women diagnosed with primary inertia during labor during a research study. Assessment of dilatation of the cervix showed that 70% of them made progress when treated with reflexology. In the control group, 38% of women offered extra supportive midwifery care made progress. Under usual care, they would have been offered unpleasant and painful oxytocin augmentation to aid in labor.

Research showed that, among women given reflexology work during labor, 11 of the 14 experiencing retention of the placenta after giving birth avoided an operation to correct the situation.

Lactation in new mothers

Research showed that new mothers who received reflexology work initiated lactation in 43.47 hours (+12.39 hours) and in comparison to the control group average of 66.97 hours (+28.16 hours). At 72 hours, satisfactory lactation was documented in 98% of the foot reflexology group and 67% of the control group. Reflexology work helped avoid use of drugs in lactation that may be harmful to the baby.


In a controlled study of postpartum women experiencing anxiety and depression, six hours of reflexology work demonstrated a significant difference for foot reflexology with traditional Chinese medicine foot bath group when compared to control groups.

In another study, postpartum women given six hours of foot reflexology work with traditional Chinese medicine foot bath showed a significant difference in: appetite; lactation; anxiety and depression scores when compared to the control group.

Research showed that postpartum women recovering from Cesarean section showed a significantly shorter first voiding time when receiving foot reflexology or machine (electric foot roller) foot reflexology as compared to the control group.

Postpartum women recovering from Cesarean section showed a significant difference in time to first defecation when receiving reflexology for three days as compared to the control group.

Source – Reflexology Research Project