Is Reflexology Safe?
Reflexology is very safe, but most practitioners will not perform procedures on a pregnant woman during the first 13 weeks of her pregnancy. During this time there is a normal risk of miscarriage, and even though the treatment hasn't been associated with miscarriage, most practitioners agree to stay away from it.
How Does It Work?
The most common area for reflexology treatment is the foot. Pressure is applied to specific zones; for example, to treat the pituitary gland, a practitioner would massage and work on the patient's big toe. Reflexology generates a signal through the peripheral nervous system, which then enters the central nervous system, where signals are sent to various parts of the brain. The signals continue to travel on to various organs, encouraging adjustments in oxygen and finally sending a response to the body's motor systems. Circulation is vital to every organ and transports nutrients (anabolic substances), oxygen, hormones, antibodies, and wastes (catabolic substances).
During the first three months of pregnancy a hormone called Human Chronic Gonadotrophin (hCG), is produced by the fetus and can make an expectant mother feel less than wonderful. The mother-to-be's body reacts to the growing baby by producing relaxin, an ovarian hormone that works to soften pelvic ligaments in preparation for birth. These changes can be overwhelming and extremely uncomfortable for many women. This is another area where reflexology can help; treatments adjust hormonal output and can also treat common pregnancy aches and pains, helping women feel more comfortable.
Reflexology During Labor
A study conducted by the Association of Reflexologists in London, England, showed that continual treatment during pregnancy reduced heartburn, hypertension, irritable uterus, and edema by 50 percent. In the study, reflexology was also used as an alternative to labor-stimulating drugs.
Many women undergo reflexology treatments to encourage labor, especially if they are overdue. Treatment can be used during any stage of labor, and reflexology's effects are felt as early as just two minutes into the therapy (with the full effect kicking in after just 15 minutes).
During a typical labor reflexology session, pressure is applied to specific points on a woman's feet and hands to stimulate the pituitary gland and to induce the hormones known to speed labor and ease pain. The birthing woman is eased into a comfortable chair, fully clothed (except for her feet), and her feet rubbed with witch hazel. The labor reflexology session can last from 45 minutes to an hour. For hospitals that support reflexology treatment, these sessions can continue into full labor, with treatments occurring in 15 minutes intervals. (Husbands and partners can even be taught this treatment and perform it on their spouses during labor and postpartum.)
In another British study, first-time mothers between the ages of 20 and 25 who received reflexology had an average labor time of just five to six hours (with some labors only lasting two to three hours). Many women also didn't need anesthesia, and the placenta release was accelerated in 70 percent of women giving birth.