Reflexology is a popular type of complementary medicine in medical practices, especially in midwifery fields.
This randomized controlled trial aimed to determine the effect of foot reflexology on idiopathic constipation symptoms, as well as anxiety and fetal activity during pregnancy. This study was conducted on seventy-four nulliparous women with constipation, referring to private and public health care centers in Tabriz-Iran, between 2017 and 2018. The participants were then randomly assigned to foot reflexology or control groups. The intervention group underwent 12 minutes of weekly foot reflexology treatment for 6 weeks. Constipation symptoms were measured at baseline and 6 times (weekly) after the intervention by the Constipation Assessment Scale (CAS). In addition, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) questionnaire was used to measure the participant’s anxiety at baseline and 6 weeks after the completion of the study. Finally, fetal movements were measured at baseline and 6 times (weekly) after the intervention using a kick chart.
Based on the results, 97% of women reported improvement in their CAS measures at the end of six weeks following reflexology. The mean scores of STAI at the end of the intervention were 38.5 and 42.2 (State anxiety), as well as 39.1 and 40.2 (Trait anxiety) in the reflexology and control groups, respectively. Statistically significant differences in fetal movements between the two groups were only observed in the fourth (P = 0.001) and fifth weeks (P = 0.007) after intervention sessions. The results further indicated that about 67% of mothers were satisfied with reflexology intervention for improvement in their constipation symptoms. Eventually, no harmful side events were reported among women.
Short-term foot reflexology in this context may have potential healing benefits in improving constipation and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy. However, further investigation for antenatal reflexology is necessary.
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