A pilot randomised controlled trial exploring the effects of antenatal reflexology on labour outcomes

Midwifery. 2017 Dec;55:137-144. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2017.09.006. Epub 2017 Sep 14.


Objective: to investigate the effects of antenatal reflexology on labour outcomes.

Design: secondary analysis of a pilot three-armed randomised controlled trial conducted between July 2012 and September 2013.

Setting: a large UK inner city hospital maternity department.

Participants: ninety primiparous women with a singleton pregnancy experiencing low back and / or pelvic girdle pain.

Interventions: six weekly 30-minute reflexology treatments compared to sham (footbath) treatments or usual antenatal care only.

Measurements: labour outcome data including labour onset, duration of the second stage of labour, epidural and Entonox usage, and mode of delivery. Participant feedback was collected prior to each treatment.

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 44minutes in the reflexology group (73.56minutes; SD= 53.78) compared to the usual care (117.92minutes; SD=56.15) (p<0.05) and footbath groups (117.4minutes; SD=68.54) (p=0.08). No adverse effects were reported.

Key conclusions: in this trial antenatal reflexology reduced labour duration for primiparous women who had experienced low back and/ or pelvic girdle pain during their pregnancy, compared with usual care and footbaths.

Implications for practice: reflexology is suitable for use during pregnancy, is safe and enjoyable and may reduce labour duration. Midwives may wish to recommend reflexology to promote normal childbirth and facilitate women centred care.

Trial registration: this trial was listed with the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register (ISRCTN26607527).

Keywords: Clinical Trial; Duration; Labour; Low back pain; Midwifery; Nursing; Pelvic girdle pain; Pilot study; Reflexology.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Labor Pain / therapy
  • Low Back Pain / therapy
  • Massage / methods
  • Massage / standards*
  • Pelvic Pain / therapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology*
  • Prenatal Care / methods*
  • Prenatal Care / standards