Reflexology, the birthing hormones and their role in helping women prepare for labour

As a maternity reflexologist I’m often asked about the most effective ways to trigger labour. My personal thoughts are that a baby will come when he or she is ready, when Mum and baby are in balance and feeling relaxed. When I give a reflexology treatment my aim is to give the mum-to-be relaxation, calm and balance.

Certain acupressure points can be pressed, stimulated or held to encourage the downward flow of energy and to prepare the body for labour. Deep relaxation techniques are included which work to massage the reflex areas of the hips and pelvis. This encourages mum to relax and allows nature to take over.
The exact mechanisms for triggering labour are still unclear but it can be helpful to know about the three key hormones, namely Oxytocin, Endorphins and Adrenaline. These hormones play a major role in regulating the process of labour and birth.

Oxytocin

The hormone of love, labour and lactation. This is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates powerful contractions.

Endorphins

These are produced by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. In response to pain the body produces calming and pain relieving hormones called endorphins. The levels of this natural opiate rise towards the end of pregnancy. These hormones will help a woman through childbirth even if it is long and challenging.

Adrenaline

This is produced by the adrenal gland and is the fight or flight hormone that we produce to help escape from danger. High levels of stress or fear will stimulate adrenaline which reduces oxytocin levels and therefore can slow down or even halt labour. This allows birthing mothers to reach a place of safety in order to labour effectively.

Although there is no evidence that reflexology can induce every labour, it can support the body to prepare for labour by reducing Adrenaline levels and therefore increasing the levels of Oxytocin.

The best news of all? Reflexology feels amazing! It’s relaxing and has a soothing effect on both mind and body.  Not only does it help prepare for a timely and straightforward birth, it is also a relaxing way to help manage both the physical and emotional pressures many women experience during pregnancy.

Other benefits of  pregnancy reflexology may include:
• Increasing energy levels
• Reducing fluid retention and swelling
• Aiding digestion and prevention of heartburn
• Improving sleep
• Relieving discomfort and back ache
• Reducing stress induced hypertension
• Relieving symptoms of pelvic girdle pain
• Reducing the likelihood of medical induction at hospital

One of the reasons I love my job is the opportunity it provides me to help facilitate a really positive pregnancy and birth experience for so many wonderful women.

Lucy is a registered midwife and also operates a mobile reflexology service and will visit women in their homes across South West London. She can be contacted on lucy@forbabyandme.net

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