I am often asked, "What are the benefits of reflexology in pregnancy?" or "I'm pregnant - what can reflexology do for me?"
The good news is that reflexology has many benefits when you're pregnant. I had regular reflexology treatments all through my own three pregnancies, and I definitely feel that it contributed to my overall well-being, positive pregnancies, and uncomplicated, drug-free, natural labours and births.
Many of my clients come to me telling me that they aren't sleeping very well, or that their energy is low. They may be suffering from pelvic girdle pain or symphysis pubis disorder (SPD), have restless legs, severe heart burn, or poor digestion with uncomfortable constipation.
All of these complaints are as a result of the body being out of balance, and reflexology works by helping to bring the whole body into balance. At a time when many of our resources are being directed towards the growth and development of your little bundle, we can feel out of kilter and perhaps running a little under par, however, with the help of reflexology, a pregnant woman can feel like her energy has improved, her immune system is stronger and given that her hormones have been balanced, she can feel her mood improve too (although, dare I say it, this is often more noticeable to those around her, before she becomes aware of it herself!).
But reflexology in pregnancy is not only good for the mother-to-be; baby enjoys the effects of the treatment too. Given that a woman will feel extremely relaxed during and after a reflexology treatment, this has positive knock-on effects for her baba too. With improved blood flow to the placenta, baby enjoys a greater supply of oxygen and nutrients, and a decrease in his/her mum's stress hormones, which can be found in the amniotic fluid. This is turn can positively influence baby's proper development, which can also have long lasting effects for baby's overall health once born.
I know that reflexology is one of my favourite treatments, and I really notice how much better I feel after a session. If you had reflexology during your pregnancy, how did it make you feel? Please leave me a comment below - I'd love to hear how it made/makes you feel!
“And reaching down, my son was born into my own, eager hands.”
Jacob’s birth story – 12th April 2013
On the evening of Thursday 11th April I enjoyed a relaxing reflexology treatment. I hadn’t gone thinking that it might help labour along, as I had had regular treatments throughout my pregnancy. Being a reflexologist myself, I know that a treatment does not encourage a woman to go labour unless she and her baby are ready. I had also gone for an acupuncture session the day before too. Being a therapist is pretty cool because you get to do treatment swaps with other friends who are also therapists.
I was 39 plus 6, and was very confident of my dates. I had planned a homebirth, and my midwife was the lovely Colette Donnelly. This was to be my second homebirth of my three births. Being a busy mother of two other small children, I had joked during this, my third, pregnancy that I was going to labour in my sleep and I would sneeze the baby out. It’s strange how things work out.
It was evening time and after my reflexology session, I went and bought some dates and some raspberry leaf tea. I hadn’t been drinking any RL tea at all, and decided that it was probably time that I did! I went home, had something to eat for dinner, and settled down to relax. It being Thursday I was looking forward to watching The Good Wife and Nashville on More4. (Ah the luxury of watching some TV – that now seems a distant past!). I seem to remember devouring the whole packet of dates, or at least close on.
I was feeling well, just tired. I had had some dull period-like pain off and on during the week, but nothing more than that. I wasn’t feeling anything that was making me think that I was going into labour properly. So, off I went to bed around 11pm, looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
I had moved into the spare room a few weeks prior, and my little boy who was 2 liked to keep me company and sleep beside me. I fell asleep with my Gentlebirth tracks playing in my iPod. Lady slumber opened her arms wide into which I fell easily and quickly.
During the night I remember turning over in bed and feeling that it was really cumbersome. My bump felt extremely low and heavy. Shortly after, I awoke to go to the bathroom. I reckon it was about 3am – I can’t be sure as there was no clock in the room. On going to the toilet, I had a bowel movement which I thought was a bit strange for the middle of the night, but didn’t think too much of it. I was tired and went straight back to sleep.
A few hours later I woke up again to go to the bathroom. Once more, I had a bowel movement, however this time it was looser. On standing up, I felt a dragging wave-like sensation in my womb, and it felt like a dull period pain. I still wasn’t sure that this was definitely the start of the great things that were to follow! I started walking around for perhaps 5 minutes, and felt the need to go to the loo again. On standing, there were more wave-like sensations. I went into the room where my husband was sleeping to see the clock. It read 6.10am. I went back out to the hall to switch on the immersion, just in case, as we had a birthing pool ready and waiting to be filled downstairs. My husband, John, had a meeting arranged in Portlaoise that day for 10am, and I naively was thinking that if this actually was the start of proper labour, he could go to the meeting and be back in time for when things were really happening!
John awoke when he heard me in the room again and asked if I was ok. I said that I was but told him I thought things were starting. (I had noticed my breathing changing with the sensations that I was feeling, and realised I was using what I call my labour breath – really long slow deep breaths in and out through my nose, reaching down into my belly.) John suggested phoning Colette, but remembering how she had said to give it about an hour after things starting before calling her, I said I’d prefer to wait. “But Lisa, you can’t talk through these!”, “Oh yeah, you’re right – call her!!” That was 6.21am.
John gave Colette an overview of what was happening, and she asked to speak to me. Hearing my breathing and realising that I couldn’t speak during the surges, needing to focus inwards, she said that she was on her way. We live in Drogheda, and Colette lives in Whitehall, so without traffic, the journey would only take about 35 minutes.
I asked John to call my friend, Gentlebirth instructor and (then) trainee mid-wife, Tracy Donegan, as she was hoping to attend our birth too, given that it was a homebirth. John phoned her and unfortunately was only able to leave a message, and didn’t get speaking to her. I remember overhearing him saying “Lisa has gone into labour...” and me shouting at him saying, “Heeney, Heeney... just in case she doesn’t know it’s me!!” (The things you think when you’re in labour!).
At this stage my surges were coming strong and fast, every 3-4 minutes, and I had to give them my full attention. Our two other children had woken up hearing a bit of commotion. We were still in the bathroom and their bedrooms are right next door. My son came into me crying, asking to be lifted. This was definitely one time in my life when I absolutely, really couldn’t do that. John had phoned his mum (who incidentally is a retired midwife), to come over. She only lives about 10 minutes away, but it felt like she arrived instantaneously, which was wonderful as she was able to occupy the other two kiddies in the room next door.
John suggested using acupressure points on my back. We had used it for 12 hours solid to great effect on my first labour, in the exact same bathroom. It felt great when he pushed the trigger points on my sacrum and lower back. I felt that any discomfort was alleviated immediately. He also brought me in my iPod with the Gentlebirth tracks. As odd as it may sound, I still didn’t think that things were imminent this time. Perhaps, given that I’d been in a similar situation with my first child – strong, frequent, sweeping surges, eased by acupressure – I didn’t want to get my hopes up, and was preparing myself for the long haul.
At about 6.40am my waters released with a Hollywood splash over the bathroom floor. They were clear. I was still wearing my pyjama bottoms, and even though they were soaked now, I still didn’t take them off. My legs started to quake, and my arms, as I held on to the window sill, were trembling. Looking back, I realise my body must have been going into shock at the pace with which labour was progressing. My dad had passed away a year and a half before, and I found myself calling on him to be with me and give me strength.
The pressure on my perineum was enormous, and I was beginning to feel the need to bear down. However, in my head I thought I needed to go to the loo again, and thought that if I sat down on the toilet, I’d never get up again, so I held the sensation/need off and I remained standing. My breathing continued strong and deep, and John applied the acupressure with every surge that consumed me.
John was popping in and out to the children next door in between my surges, keeping everything calm. At what must have been about 6.50am, the pressure and the presence on my pelvic floor was so great, I reached down between my legs, and to my complete joy, I felt the top of my baby’s head emerging. As I stood there momentarily by myself in our little bathroom, the realisation that my baby was about to be born was glorious and wonderful.
“John”, I called “This baby’s nearly here!”
John helped me out of my pyjama trousers, and got a pretty big shock when he saw the baby’s head crowning! He got into a slight flap for a few seconds. He called to his mum (the retired midwife!), to come and join us in the bathroom, and trying to remember protocol on what to do when your midwife still hasn’t arrived, asked if we needed to call an ambulance. “No”, I said, “everything’s fine.”
However, I did ask for my aromatherapy oils for labour that I had pre-blended ahead of time. I was going to put it on a compress on my perineum as baby was being born, but I didn’t really have time in the end.
I became aware of an amazing sense of total mental clarity, as with the next surge (and no pushing) my baby’s head was born. A few more breaths that reached deep into my belly, and another surge brought my beautiful baby boy into the world. He was born straight into my own open, eager hands, in what was the most exquisite experience of my life. Clutching him close and calling for towels to be put under me, I knelt on our bathroom floor and wallowed in what can only be described as euphoria. I beamed! I was jubilant, triumphant, infallible. Checking the time, it had just gone 6.55am on Friday 12th April – just about an hour after I’d first got up to go to the toilet, and when I wasn’t aware of any great sensation. It’s amazing what a mere hour in a day can bring about. Colette our midwife arrived at the house around 7.10am, and was met by John jokingly telling her she didn’t need her bag, as the baby had already arrived!
Our two other children joined us in the bathroom to have a look at their new baby brother. I had a natural third stage delivery just over an hour and a half later using only reflexology points on my hands. There was minimal blood loss and only a very slight tear. I needed no pain relief, and just used homeopathy for any after pains and for local bruising and tenderness.
We named our baby Jacob and he weighed 8lb 8.5oz and measured 52cm in length at birth.
So I said I was going to labour in my sleep – which I believe I did. I also said I was just going to sneeze baby out... well, in fairness it was more effort than a sneeze. Just a little ;-)
“Am I expecting my period, or am I pregnant?” Sometimes it’s very hard to differentiate between the symptoms of having conceived, and thinking you’re getting your period in a particular month.
Your breasts might feel a bit more tender than usual; you might feel cramping in your lower abdomen and lower back. Generally your emotions can be a bit volatile, being tearful one moment (to the point where you’re thinking you’re a bit crazy for crying at an advert on the TV or at a song on the radio), to perhaps losing your temper or reacting a bit more strongly than you normally do.
Some women also experience a break-out of spots, mostly around the jaw-line and chin area of their face. You can feel excessively tired, perhaps crave sweet foods, or feel a bit chilly. You might experience a bout of looser stools or discomfort and bloating in your tummy.
For many women, these can all be signs and symptoms that they’re getting their period. Especially if they haven’t been paying too much attention to their menstrual cycle and aren’t too sure when the first day of their last period was, or how long their cycle normally is, or when their fertile period may have been, or even when they had sex! And then suddenly, something might twig, and you begin to suspect that something is a bit different this month.
So off you go and root through your underwear drawer for that pregnancy test you’re sure you had from before, or scoot off to Tesco or Boots to buy one (but which one – the fancy schmancy one that tells you precisely how many minutes (well, not quite) you are pregnant? Or the cheaper one that probably does just as good a job?).
Better buy some sanitary towels as well, you never know, your period might just be a day or two late. Best be prepared! Now, let’s hope you don’t meet anyone you know at the check-out as you try to nonchalantly, casually, ever so discreetly pay for the instantly recognisable box that holds the answer to all your questions and will confirm or negate all your instincts of the past week or so.
And then the next hurdle is to try and get a quiet moment in which to perform the test. Peeing on a stick in the privacy of your own bathroom is fine if you don’t have any other children who like to follow you everywhere and know exactly what you’re doing at all times. However, it might prove to be a bit a challenge or more of a family affair if you do – “What’s that Mummy? What are you doing? Can I see? “... And then do you just pee on it, or actually pee in a glass and then stick the magic wand in for five (oh, I probably counted too quickly, better leave it just a little longer) seconds?
So many dilemmas. Finding out if you’re pregnant or not is never, of course, a mundane task. In three minutes’ time or less, your life just might change completely, be it the first time you find out you’re pregnant or the second, third, fourth or any other time. Or if you find out that you’re not pregnant, it might be a case of life stays the same, either with heart-aching disappointment, or for some women, huge relief.
Ok, so one little line has appeared. Good. The test has worked. I must have left the stick in the pee for the right length of time. And now the waiting begins. Did you ever know three minutes could take so long? I don’t think my heart was beating this loudly before. Yes, and I’m looking... I’m looking... I’m still looking. Damn, I wish I’d worn my glasses. What’s that they say, “You can never get a false positive”? Ok, patience. Is that some sort of discolouration where another line should be? Is that really another little pink line?? Really? OH WOW! I’M PREGNANT!!
And your life changes. Completely. Everything that you’ve been feeling and experiencing over the last week or ten days now makes itself clear and very obvious. “Of course I knew”, you tell yourself. “Something was just a little different.” Perhaps hard to put your finger on exactly, but you knew all along that when that little poppy-seed sized new life form started telling your body what to do, that something was indeed different.
If you have just found out that you’re pregnant – congratulations!
If you have just found out that you’re not pregnant – and you’d like to be, I honestly hope it happens for you soon.
Hi, I'm Lisa Heeney. I'm passionate about women enjoying their pregnancies and having a positive birth experience. I work with pregnant women on a daily basis and I learn so much from them and am truly grateful. Drawing on my working experiences and my personal experience of being a mum of three, I would like to share tidbits and advice that I have found helpful and beneficial in pregnancy and after.