Pregnancy & Postnatal Reflexology

Introduction

Reflexology can be a helpful way to encourage natural harmony and balance within your body. This is particularly important at a time when you are trying to conceive, during pregnancy, preparing for labour, and in the postnatal period. Regular reflexology treatments in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy helps the body to prepare for the imminent arrival. The following link highlights how reflexology can benefit you during pregnancy:

Please always inform your midwife or healthcare provider if you plan to have reflexology during your pregnancy.


Pregnancy Reflexology

Reflexology is a safe and non-invasive complementary therapy which can help support the mother to be through her pregnancy (Please see the important note * below). It can help with both emotional and physical issues leading to a calmer pregnancy and hopefully a calmer baby.

Reflexology may help with the following pregnancy-related conditions and discomforts:
  • Anxiety & Stress
  • Backache
  • Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
  • Constipation
  • Digestive Problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches & Migraines
  • Heartburn
  • Insomnia
  • Itchy skin
  • Leg cramps
  • Morning sickness
  • Oedema
  • Pelvic Girdle Pain (Symphysis Pubis Disorder or Pelvic Disorder Syndrome)
  • Sciatica
* Reflexology is safe during pregnancy although I feel it is important not to treat during the first trimester (first 12 weeks) to allow the body to settle naturally into the pregnancy. I am happy to provide reflexology treatments during the second and third trimesters as well as the postnatal period. However, there are certain conditions which are contraindications to treatment which include: pre-term labour, history of miscarriage, placenta praevia (low-lying placenta), hydroamnios (excess amniotic fluid around the baby after 32 weeks gestation), women with a risk of pre-eclampsia or women with a risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Encouraging Labour at Term

Relaxation therapies can be useful in helping to lower stress hormone levels (cortisol, adrenaline & noradrenaline), which is particularly important in the latter stages of pregnancy. As the pregnancy reaches term, the levels of a hormone called oxytocin need to rise. This will stimulate uterine contractions, help to thin and dilate the cervix, move the baby down and out of the birth canal and expel the placenta following the delivery.

If there are high levels of stress hormones in the circulation, efficient oxytocin levels will not be produced. It is thought that regular reflexology treatments in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy may help to: 
  • start labour spontaneously at term
  • labour efficiently
  • cope better with contraction pain
  • have a normal spontaneous vaginal birth without complications

Relevant Research Studies

A recent study has shown that reflexology during pregnancy can significantly reduce pain in labour and reduce the length of the first stage of labour:

An earlier study by Motha and McGrath investigated the effects of regular reflexology treatments from 20 weeks of pregnancy on labour time.  The average for those receiving reflexology work was: first stage: 5 hours; second stage: 16 minutes; and third stage: 7 minutes. This compared to textbook figures of 16 to 24 hours' first stage, and, 1 to 2 hour's second stage. Also 89.0% of the women experienced a normal delivery:
  • Dr. Gowri Motha and Dr. Jane McGrath (Oct. 11, 1989) The Effects of Reflexology on Labour Outcome. Forest Gate, London, England, Nursing Times, Oct. 11.
The following link summarises studies which have shown how reflexology can be beneficial to expectant mothers:
 
Post-Natal Reflexology
 
Reflexology may help in the postnatal period with:
  • returning your body to balance following the delivery
  • aches & pains
  • relaxation and rest time for the new mum
  • emotional wellbeing
  • postnatal depression
  • establishing breastfeeding
  • adjusting with the new demands of a baby
  • support as your menstrual cycle returns to normal
A recent study has shown how reflexology can improve sleep quality in postnatal women:
  • Li C-Y et al (2011) Randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of using foot reflexology to improve quality of sleep amongst post partum women. Midwifery 27 p181-186: 
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19577829

Your baby is very welcome to come with you to your postnatal session and will probably sleep through the experience! Once your baby is over 4 weeks of age I can show you how perform simple reflexology routines on your little ones feet!

Please also visit my Baby and Toddler Reflexology page for ways reflexology may help your baby.
     
     
 
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