I love having guest bloggers on Inspired Birth Pro, especially when the topic is on a specialized way to serve expectant parents. It's wonderful to be able to share new modalities with birth professionals who are looking for additional resources for their clients and students. Today, Melinda Mickshaw of The Relievery tells us about reflexology in pregnancy. Also be sure to check out her new reflexology training course for doulas – you can also earn 1.5 DONA CEUs by taking this course!
Staying current on comfort measures and holistic practices is a job unto itself. With all the information, and misinformation, out there, how can we go about confidently informing our clients on new modalities? As someone educated as a Holistic Health Practitioner, I believe it's our duty as holistic professionals to bridge the gap between birth work and holistic work. Which is why I'd love to share one of my favorite practices for pregnancy, birth and postpartum: reflexology.
What is Reflexology?
Did you know that there are over two hundred thousand nerve endings on the bottom of each foot? Reflexology is a form of accupressure applied to the bottoms of the feet, where all those nerve endings are conveniently located. The general idea is that each one of those nerve endings is connected to a specific organ, muscle and tissue in the body. When you stimulate the nerve endings, it can help release tensions and blockages in the associated system. While it's become more popular as a complement to modern medicine lately, the practice actually dates back to ancient Egyptian, Ayurvedic, and Chinese therapies.
Although there are many variations of reflexology, the general principals are the same. If you look at the bottom of your feet, your body is mapped out with the points related to your head at the top of the feet, and the points related to your lower body near the bottom of the feet.
The tips of your toes would be near the top of your head, and include points for your sinuses. The inside of your feet, where they touch if you put them together, relate to your spine. As you move from the inside of your feet outwards, you'd be moving out towards your chest, arms, etc.
Because there's less musculature in the foot, it's possible to stimulate various body systems in a way you normally could not. For example, reflexology has been shown to be an effective tool against constipation after c-sections. We can easily rub a woman's feet, but we can't necessarily reach inside her body and massage her intestines.
Even though Reflexology has been shown to be effective for a variety of discomforts, it's important to remember that it's a complementary therapy and is designed to be used in tandem with, not in lieu of, medical care.
How should it be practiced?
Reflexology can be effective when used as seldom as once a week, or as frequently as once a day. Reflexology sessions can go up to two hours when performed by a qualified professional, but will typically last 30-45 minutes when done at home by a pregnant woman or her partner.
To practice reflexology, the person receiving a session should be seated comfortably with their feet raised on an ottoman or cushion. The person providing the reflexology session can sit on the floor in front of them so they have a good view of each foot. For flexible women, this can also be done in a seated lotus position, while rubbing one's own feet.
As you work through each point, you may find that some points feel tender or gristly. When that happens, it signifies that there is a blockage or imbalance in the associated region. Do not neglect that point, simply lighten up pressure until you reach a comfortable level and continue stimulated the area gently. Over time you should feel the point become more comfortable as the blockage or imbalance works itself out.
Is reflexology safe for pregnant women?
Yes! As long as it's practiced in a safe, informed way. There are points on the foot that have been said to induce labor (for example, points relating to hormone production and reproductive organs). You never want to stimulate one of those points while pregnant. A few ways to avoid that are to work only with a certified professional, or to learn which points those are and avoid them. Doing a quick google on "free reflexology course" will bring up dozens of educational tools. Make sure to review the information from reputable organizations only. You can also check out the Doula Training course I recently launched, Reflexology in Pregnancy. All of our products are designed specifically to only include points that are safe in pregnancy and to avoid all the others. That way you don't need to memorize "no-go" zones, you just need to stay within the areas we teach. However, we do have a Foot Map for Birth which does include those points if you're curious where they are.
How can I introduce reflexology to clients?
Unless taking a certified holistic course in reflexology and becoming certified yourself, learning about this practice does not enable you to work outside a doula's scope of practice or touch a client in any way you're not currently permitted. That being said, reflexology is a perfect self care tool! By sharing the knowledge of various reflexology points with your clients, either they or their partners can press and rub the points in the comfort of their own home for continued relief throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. This is a great way for spouses and partners to feel helpful to their pregnant partners. Plus, we find that many women ask for foot rubs while pregnant anyways, providing knowledge of reflexology to your clients allows them to turn those foot rubs into a therapeutic tool.
Melinda Mickshaw is educated as a Holistic Health Practitioner which includes training in Elemental Reflexology, Polarity Therapy, Aromatherapy, Nutrition, and more. She is now the Co-Founder and Head of Product Development for The Relievery, a holistic products and education company. After working with a variety of clients, she discovered that her passion lies in empowering women to engage in holistic self-care, rather than being entirely reliant on a practitioner. Because of that passion, she's created a variety of products and educational materials that allow women to provide relief to themselves and their families in the comfort of their own homes.