Complementary medicine for laboring women: a qualitative study of the effects of reflexology

J Complement Integr Med. 2018 Jul 19;16(1):/j/jcim.2019.16.issue-1/jcim-2018-0022/jcim-2018-0022.xml. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2018-0022.


Background Despite pharmacological interventions, labor pain and anxiety still remain a challenge, and can carry long-term psychological complications. The goal of this study was to assess the effect of reflexology on these symptoms and to explore the physical and psychological components of women's experience associated with this treatment. Methods This qualitative study was conducted in an Israeli university hospital that offers integrative medicine services. Reflexology was offered to laboring women in the hospital, by the medical staff. In-depth, open interviews were conducted with 36 women, still in hospital, who consented to be interviewed, within 48 h after delivery. Questions referred to their labor experience with reflexology treatment. Results Of the 36 participants, 34 (94%) described a positive and empowering experience. They reported reduced pain and anxiety, and an increased sense of self-efficacy brought about by the ability to become active and manage labor. Conclusions Using reflexology as one of the complementary medicine treatment available can contribute greatly to the entire labor experience as it empowers women and increases self-confidence and ability to self-manage labor and delivery.

Keywords: childbirth; complementary medicine treatment; qualitative study; reflexology; self-empowerment; women’s experience.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Labor Pain / psychology
  • Labor Pain / therapy*
  • Labor, Obstetric / physiology*
  • Labor, Obstetric / psychology
  • Massage*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Participation
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome