Many of you will have heard of a natural therapy called ‘reflexology’, and you will probably know that it involves some kind of treatment of the feet. The therapy has gained something of a reputation for being able to bring on labour, and frequently, it is only at this stage that pregnant women call a reflexologist for help! The flip-side of this reputation is that sometimes there is a wariness of reflexology before late pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. In this article, I aim to dispel this fear, provide an introduction to how this natural, non-invasive therapy works, and how it can help you before, during and after your pregnancy.

What happens during your pregnancy
During a healthy pregnancy, you will undergo many physical and emotional changes, brought about largely through hormonal stimuli. Hormones are essentially chemical messengers, and throughout your pregnancy they will tell your body what is required to sustain the new life growing within you. These ‘adjustments’, whilst normal, can sometimes result in stressful symptoms, which may include:

- Nausea, more common in early pregnancy
- Back pain, hip pain and sciatica, especially in later pregnancy
- Extreme tiredness
- Headaches
- Cramp
- Anxiety or depression

If you were experiencing any of the above conditions and weren’t pregnant, you might go to the chemists or your GP and get some form of medication, but many common medicines are not suitable when you’re carrying a baby.

What is reflexology, how does it work?
In a nutshell, reflexology is the stimulation of specific areas and points on the feet (and where appropriate hands), which result in a response elsewhere in the body. Where this response occurs depends on what part of the foot was stimulated. This is totally different to a foot massage, which will usually be given to warm up and relax the feet, but is not part of the treatment itself. A reflexologist is very specific as to where they treat, and with what type of pressure. At all times the recipient’s comfort is paramount, and the treatment is both pleasant and relaxing to receive.

Examples of the many benefits from this therapy include:

- Improved circulation and relief from varicose veins, aching legs and swollen ankles
- Easement of digestive problems such as constipation and nausea
- Calming of the nervous system, promoting a deep sense of relaxation and well-being
- Relief from back pain, hip pain and sciatica
- More restful sleep and an increase in energy levels

The balancing effect that reflexology encourages can help to prepare you for conception, ease the stresses of pregnancy, and after the birth, to help you recover more quickly.

Could this ‘balancing effect’ interfere with your pregnancy?
Maternity reflexology is specifically adapted to allow your body to get on and do its job unhindered, whilst helping to support you through any physical or mental stress – which is good news for you and the baby. A qualified maternity reflexologist is trained to:

- Know where to avoid specific treatment or treat gently
- When to adapt the treatment during the different stages of your pregnancy
- When treatment is contraindicated
- Provide appropriate self-help advice
- Know what is normal, and what may not be normal during a pregnancy
- Know when medical opinion ought to be sought

The holistic approach
A good therapist in any field will always take a holistic approach. This means taking diet, lifestyle, the client’s personal circumstances and medical history into account, so that the effects of the treatment can be maximised. Likewise, a qualified maternity reflexologist will combine specialised knowledge and a variety of skills to help you towards a more comfortable, stress-free, and enjoyable pregnancy.

Author's Bio: 

Sally Tomkins has a well-established private practice based in Crawley, West Sussex, specialising in Reflexology, Indian Head Massage, Reiki and Tibetan Acupressure Head massage. She has gained an additional qualification in maternity reflexology under Renee Tanner, founder of the International Federation of Reflexologists. Sally has also received training in the Advanced Reflexology Technique, developed by Tony Porter.