The journey through pregnancy can be a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, worries, joy and some expected and/or unheard of pregnancy related symptoms. Pregnancy can seem straightforward especially to those who have sailed through it but it affects every system in the human body. Maternity reflexology supports the client through the changes and works alongside the input and care from midwives and consultants.
Many complementary therapy treatments are not suitable during pregnancy BUT it is possible to have maternity reflexology throughout pregnancy. Maternity reflexology can assist holistically with the physical and emotional symptoms that can arise. In 1994, Dr Gowrie Motha conducted research for the Association of Reflexologists into the effects of maternity reflexology during pregnancy and concluded that the effects during the antenatal period “on labour outcomes were outstanding”.
Ideally a client would receive a weekly session throughout pregnancy in order to maintain balance and provide support as the pregnancy develops. This is of course difficult to manage and usually sessions take place fortnightly or monthly. A maternity reflexologist needs to be available for the client should any symptoms arise and also be prepared to offer mobile treatments especially in the third trimester, during labour and post natally.
Notes are taken during each session and an update on any midwife appointments/scans/tests that have taken place and how the client is feeling – physically and emotionally. The client is made to feel comfortable, warm and relaxed in a reclining chair. Due to the risk of supine hypotension the pregnant client is never laid flat. The maternity reflexology takes about one hour and includes a balance of the hormonal system, specialised reflexology for any particular symptoms if appropriate and relaxation techniques with emphasis on the solar plexus and kidneys.
The Muscular-Skeletal system is under pressure due to a gain in weight, posture is naturally affected and the pelvis tilts to accommodate the growing baby. The increased release of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy helps increase the flexibility of joints but can cause an abnormal motion in many joints of the body. This can result in back ache, rib pain, sciatica and symphysis pubis pain. Maternity reflexology helps to ease backache and rib pain. It relaxes the spine, neck and shoulders and helps to maintain the entire system. There are specialised techniques to stretch the spine from the feet and to help release sciatic nerve compression and trigger point release techniques to assist with symphysis pubic pain.
The Alimentary system also has to work harder during pregnancy. Heartburn, food cravings, morning sickness, constipation and IBS are common symptoms. Maternity reflexology can help sedate the stomach and ease pain in the oesophagus in cases of heartburn. An endocrine balance can be carried out from the feet, which helps the client adjust to cravings and morning sickness. The large intestines can also be worked and massaged from the feet to encourage a regular bowel movement.
The Cardio-Vascular system works hard during pregnancy due to an increase in blood volume. Blood pressure is checked regularly throughout the pregnancy by the midwife/GP. Maternity reflexology can be used to relax, calm and decrease anxiety/stress. Emphasis is placed on relaxing the chest area, carrying out soothing massage and holding the solar plexus and working it anticlockwise to take any tension away.
Emotions – Naturally physical changes that take place during pregnancy will also create an emotional response. Hormonal changes will cause mood swings, one minute happy the next sad. Unfortunately there appears to be an expectation that a woman should carry on sustaining their usual work/life role even though they are coping with daily shifts in energy/hormones and the physical effects. There is little time to rest even though it is vital. Reflexology sessions provide an invaluable opportunity to discuss feelings in a safe environment. Focus is placed on an endocrine balance and restoring calmness and a sense of self working on specific corresponding reflex points.
I have referred to some of the ways maternity reflexology can help during pregnancy but there are many more. Common sense and caution needs to be exercised throughout – maternity reflexology works in an area that needs extra care and diligence, if in doubt recommend the client seek attention from their medical care team.
The wonder of maternity reflexology is that you can clearly see the uterus reflex area grow as the baby develops. With knowledge of a detailed foot map the growth can be seen as the baby fills the abdomen. It is sometimes possible to tell the position of the baby and whether or not the baby’s head is engaged. When the baby moves it can sometimes be felt on the feet and maternity reflexology often stirs a baby at the start of a session. Should a client arrive at a session and has been advised that her baby is in breech position there is a simple move on the feet that can initiate a turn, much easier than the allopathic way to turn a baby and has proved to be very effective.
Maternity reflexology doesn’t just work well during pregnancy but is there to provide support in the postnatal period. There are specific reflexology moves the can be adapted to help different types of birthing and also to once again deal with changing physical symptoms such as breastfeeding and aches in pains. Parents can also be taught some simple moves to use on their babies feet to help with colic, reflux and to settle/calm. It provides a wonderful opportunity to bond and helps relieve some common symptoms in a simple and effective way.
Andrea Burnand – Maternity Reflexologist/Bowen Therapist
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