I am asked about the use of Reflexology for prompting the onset of labour often, usually by people in the final week/s of their pregnancy who are considering the potential prospect of a medical intervention.
My response always clarifies that Reflexology cannot induce birth; if it could do that, the NHS would save a fortune using Reflexologists instead of induction procedures in hospitals. That said, it is still an effective aid to help move someone into an optimal state to allow the birthing process to happen when their body is ready for it.
External factors, general anxiety and fear (perhaps caused by traumatic medical experience or a previous birth which did not go according to the birth plan) can contribute to higher levels of stress hormones being produced in a woman's body in the run up to labour.
Why is that important, exactly? Well, there is some large-scale scientific research evidence* which shows that experiencing high stress events esp. between 33-36 weeks of pregnancy, can lengthen a pregnancy, extending the onset of labour beyond its predicted due date. On an evolutionary level, this makes perfect sense, as not giving birth in dangerous situations gives a physically vulnerable woman and her newborn baby a much better chance of survival. Postponing the birth in response to rising stress hormones, until everyone is out of immediate danger, is clearly an evolutionary advantage.
Reflexology dials down the body's production of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, and increases the production of the relaxation hormones serotonin, endorphins & oxytocin. The last one of those, oxytocin, also stimulates uterine contractions during birth & prompts the production of breast-milk. Helping to restore a 'non-threat situation' equilibrium between your body's stress and birth-related hormones increases the chances of labour initiating at full term rather than after it.
So what is the best way to use Reflexology in late pregnancy? A one-off treatment isn't likely to provide a quick fix to you going over-due, although it will certainly help relax you which may help somewhat. Reflexology has an accumulative effect on the nervous system, meaning that with each session your body and mind relax faster and further and the effects of it will last for longer, so if you want to use this powerful treatment to its best capabilities, I recommend a series of weekly appointments during the third trimester to minimise rising stress levels during this critical period for stress hormone management.
I'm always happy to talk to prospective clients about how these therapies might be used and adapted for their individual circumstances, so do please feel free to get in touch with any questions.
* R. Brown, University of Colorado, Denver 2020, Published in the National Library of Medicine / National Center for Biotechnology Information