What is Reflexology?
Reflexology is a form of treatment that involves giving massage, in a certain manner, to all of the parts of the feet. Different areas of the feet relate to different parts of the body – in fact, the feet as a whole correspond to the whole of the body. During a treatment, a diagnosis can be made of the parts of the body that are out of balance, and therefore not working efficiently, and reflexology can correct these imbalances, thus returning the body to good working order.
A Short History
Reflexology was rediscovered by Dr William Fitzgerald born in 1872 in the USA. In his book on Zone Therapy, (his term for Reflexology), he says: “A form of treatment by means of pressure points was known in India and China 5000 years ago. This knowledge, however, appears to be lost or forgotten.” If we look back in history, we can find further evidence of this technique being used. Cellini (1500-1571), the great Florentine sculptor, is reported to have used strong pressure on his fingers and toes in order to relieve pain in his body. Moreover, North American Indian tribes knew of the relationship between the reflex points and the internal organs of the body and used this knowledge to treat disease.
REFLEXOLOGY IN PREGNANCY
Dr Motha pioneered the use of Reflexology for pregnant mothers in London in 1987. She then set up “The Gentle Birth Preparation Programme”, (now called “The Jeyarani Way” Gentle Birth Method), that included Reflexology as one of the main components. Dr Motha has written articles and also lectured on Reflexology in pregnancy to the Association of Reflexologists and obstetric units throughout the UK. Her extensive years of experience and knowledge have made her one of the foremost experts of the use of Reflexology in pregnancy in the world.
Safety of Reflexology in Pregnancy
Reflexology has been performed by Dr Motha and her team throughout pregnancy and has been found to be safe during pregnancy in terms of helping mothers to go all the way to term and beyond, with a reduction of the common symptoms of pregnancy. However, before 12 weeks gestation, (before the placenta is fully established), Dr Motha generally advises a GENTLE foot massage, concentrating on LIGHT drainage and working only on the upper areas of the foot.
Despite the fact that we have found Reflexology to be safe during pregnancy, occasionally there have been reports that midwives have told expectant mothers not to have Reflexology during pregnancy as it might provoke miscarriage or bring on early labour. Dr Laurence Wood, Obstetric Consultant at Walsgrave Hospital, Coventry, asked us to research this. Dr Motha then presented our findings at the “Clinical Governance in Maternity Services Meetings at the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists on 16th November 2001. For this study, we established the gestation of the baby born to all mothers, (whom we were able to contact), who had had any Reflexology in pregnancy with a Jeyarani practitioner between the years of 1997 and 2001. As can be seen from the graph below, the majority (45.5%) of babies were born at 40 weeks gestation. Only 1.7% of babies were born at 36 weeks; these babies were twins.
This graph shows that Reflexology is safe during pregnancy and contributes to achieving a normal gestation.
Benefits of Reflexology in Pregnancy
Reflexology can help with all the major and minor symptoms of pregnancy. Moreover, Dr Motha and her team also find Reflexology a useful technique in identifying areas of the mother’s body that require additional attention and that may benefit from another treatment, such as Creative Healing or Bowen Therapy.
Dr Motha has researched Reflexology in pregnancy and the main results of this study are shown below. These results were presented at the First European Conference on Reflexology in 1994.
Research on Reflexology in Pregnancy and on labour outcomes
Dr. Gowri Motha, Ms Zia Rowji and Dr. Jane McGrath.
In 1992-93, Reflexology was offered free of cost to 64 pregnant women from 20 weeks of pregnancy to term, in Forest Gate, London. Thirty-seven women completed the set course of 10 treatments.
The remaining group found that Reflexology helped with the following common symptoms during pregnancy:
Social Stress 10.8%
Immunological Stress 8.1 %
Irritable uterus 5.4%
No problems 5.4%
Nose bleeds 2.7%
It was discovered that the effects of Reflexology on labour outcomes were outstanding. Some had labour times of only 2 hours, some 3 hours. The 20‑25 year olds had an average time of first stage labour of 5 or 6 hours, as did the first time mothers (text book average is 16-24 hours). Second time mothers, 26‑30 year olds, seemed to have longer labours, (and may have fallen into the group experiencing more social stress). The second stage of labour lasted an average of 16 minutes, (compared to the text book expectancy of 1-2 hours). In this small study, it was found that there was very little difference between the labour times of 30 year olds and 40 year olds, even though many of the 40-year-olds were first time mothers, (who had 2‑3 hour labours).
Outcomes for mothers receiving Reflexology in the study
Normal Deliveries 89.0%
Elective Caesarian Section 2.7%
Emergency Caesarian Section 5.4%
Immunological Stress 8.1 % (13.0% in Newham District)
In a separate study in an antenatal clinic, Dr. Motha had found that weekly Reflexology treatments of between 30 to 45 minutes normalised hypertension, avoiding the usual hospital admittance for 48 hours’ rest and observation.
Other benefits of Reflexology in Pregnancy include:
- Provides a sense of well-being and helps prevent problems from starting
- Reduces swelling in feet and ankles
- Relieves tired, aching feet
- Improves sleep quality
- Aids digestion
- Creates a sense of well-being for the foetus
- The mother feels supported mentally, physically and emotionally throughout pregnancy
- Reflexology during labour can intensify contractions and shortens labour as a result