Reflexology is one of the safest and most supportive therapies for pregnant women. As an experienced reflexologist, with advanced techniques in maternity reflexology treatments and a passion for this specialised field, I have the honour of treating many women who suffer from some of the adverse effects of the physiological changes that pregnancy can bring.
Reflexology can be extremely beneficial for expectant, labouring or newly delivered women and for their babies; both to treat a variety of specific conditions and to aid relaxation and induce sleep. Regular sessions throughout pregnancy (after week 14) can help to alleviate symptoms by encouraging the body’s self-healing and self-regulating systems.
Reflexology is a form of complementary medicine that involves massage to the feet or hands but most commonly the feet. There are areas on both hands and feet that correspond to different parts of the body, so it works principally like acupuncture – but without the needles. The roots of reflexology date back many years and are thought to have their origin in ancient Chinese pressure point therapies. It evolved into its common form in the 1920s and 1960s and has since become very popular for its ability to aid deep relaxation and create a sense of well-being. It is great for people who may fear needles but who would like the health benefits of acupuncture. Similarly, not everyone feels comfortable with the idea of a full body massage, so a massage just to the feet can be a lot less daunting.
Reflexology sessions last an hour, and during your first visit you will receive a 20 minute consultation during this time. This helps identify any existing health problems and guides your treatment. Following the consultation, the treatment will be performed on your feet as you recline on a treatment couch in a semi reclined position. During the session, gentle pressure will be applied to different areas of your feet – those that correspond with the areas of your body that might be experiencing problems.
While I also provide general reflexology, I have a particular love of maternity reflexology and am passionate about all things babies and birth. I have two young daughters and found reflexology enormously beneficial during both pregnancies, particularly for insomnia, for the physical and mental effects of the hormonal changes and symptoms I experienced, and as an aid to relaxation and stress relief as part of my preparation for birth.
Reflexology for priming and inducing labour
Reflexology can help to ‘prime’ your body for birthing, aiding relaxation and reducing stress, promoting pain relief, boosting failing energy levels and studies have found that it can even help reduce the length of labour. I would usually recommend general pregnancy reflexology from 37 weeks out to 40+ weeks because of these benefits, particularly if you suspect you might go overdue. Only five per cent of babies actually arrive on their due date – it’s just an estimate after all – and babies can usually be expected up to a week before or after.
The main factors that influence the precise length of your pregnancy are genetic and a baby isn’t classed as overdue until you reach your 40th week. It is quite common for midwives to recommend reflexology and acupuncture after this point and it’s always advisable to get their all clear before booking in. As a rule, inducing therapies are not provided between weeks 37 and 40. However, should you go overdue there are a number of special pressure points that I can work on to help gently induce labour.
I’ve had the privilege of treating many overdue ladies, many of whom have shown the first signs of labour within 48 hours. Even where the treatment hasn’t induced labour within that time, they have found the sessions to be hugely beneficial for pre-birth anxiety and the unwanted side-effects of pregnancy. First-time mums in particular – who are yet to experience a birth or understand the amazing things their bodies can do – often face an anxious wait and de-stressing is incredibly important to reduce this natural anxiety.
The pressure points used are thought to help to trigger the hormones that kick-start the natural birthing process and, together with relaxation, contribute towards gently inducing labour. Aside from the hormones and relaxation, reflexology can also help to normalise blood pressure and, speaking as a mum myself, it is a much welcome, soothing relief for sore weight-bearing feet!
Should you wish to find out more about how general or maternity reflexology can help you, please contact the Physio and Therapies reception team on 01706 819 464.
MFHT IIHHT Dip/AoR