Reflexology and Fertility
There's no doubt that treatments for infertility and subfertility can be emotionally exhausting, highly stressful, and also very expensive. Reflexologist Natasha Ellison suggests that reflexology may help.
Fertility expert Zita West estimates that one in six couples face issues when trying for a baby – and the number having problems conceiving is growing.
There can be many reasons that may hamper falling pregnant, but often women find themselves in the frustrating situation of not being given any specific cause for their conception issues, despite the various medical tests and assessment they have undergone. Understandably this can cause great stress and a Catch-22 situation: a pregnancy won't occur until you relax, which is nearly impossible because you're worried you can't get pregnant. Worry and anxiety over not being able to have children can create the very physical conditions that prevent conception.
However, according to an increasing number of women who have been in precisely this situation, they have found that the ancient art of reflexology can make a difference. Many believe that regular treatments helped them become pregnant. Reflexology is based on the principle that certain reflex points on the feet are directly linked to different organs of the body. When the points on the foot are stimulated by massage, it is thought that this then stimulates the corresponding organ.
Reflexology may enhance fertility by improving blood circulation throughout the body, and encouraging the elimination of toxins. By massaging different points on the feet (such as the ovary reflex and fallopian tube reflex), therapists claim that they can unblock energy pathways in the body, helping to regain the body's natural balance and heal itself. Ultimately this can have a positive effect on balancing hormone levels and regulating menstrual cycles.
It's widely recognised too that reflexology is an excellent aid to relaxation, which, of course, alleviates stress and tension so that the body is in the best possible condition for conception to occur. Therapists believe that the energy released during a treatment gently stimulates the reproductive organs, thus promoting optimal hormonal and glandular functioning.
Louise Keet, Principal of the London School of Reflexology, is a huge advocate of specific pregnancy reflexology techniques, which appear to have some very positive outcomes, and which may help women ovulate and regain periods, and assist them to manage Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, endometriosis, fibroids and early menopause. Many women who have undergone these techniques go on to achieve a viable pregnancy, she says.
A treatment where the main objective is to conceive may focus on balancing all bodily systems, while also paying particular attention to a number of associated reflexes, such as that of the pituitary gland, which regulates hormones associated with reproduction. Along with this, the ovary, uterus and fallopian tube reflexes will require additional focus. There may be some focus on correlating areas of the spine reflex, too, as it's thought that compression to the spinal nerve route can affect the functioning of an organ, gland or part of the body.
In order to have maximum effect, the therapist must consider the patient holistically, identifying if anything else is happening that may be preventing pregnancy occurring. Stresses or worries at home or work, for example, can negatively impact on the body's equilibrium, and lifestyle factors – diet, exercise and water intake – must also be considered.
There's a big 'may' about all this, though, because the effect of reflexology treatments on fertility can't yet be scientifically proven. Some years ago a Devon-based reflexologist, Jane Holt, was involved in the setting up of a randomised controlled research trial at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, 'to determine the effectiveness of reflexology in ovulation induction'. Around 30 women, from a total of roughly 100, apparently became pregnant – but detailed results of this very small survey are sadly hard to come by, so anecdotal evidence is the best that we can do at present.
For those who are pregnant – naturally or otherwise – reflexology treatments have been known to relieve pregnancy symptoms such as back pain, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, headaches and swollen legs. Many women enjoy reflexology throughout their pregnancy to help stay balanced during this time of great internal change – and many also use it to kick start labour if they have reached, or gone beyond, their due date. It's thought that it may stimulate the release of oxytocin to encourage contractions and get labour started. Midwives and Health Care Professionals are warming towards the benefits of reflexology for women past their due date.
As with many branches of complementary medicine, the results of this ancient form of healing can't easily be quantified, but there do appear to be some clear benefits – from relaxing future mums and dads to aiding conception and balancing out the hormonal fluctuations. The road to pregnancy and beyond can be long and hard – reflexology may just help you put your best foot forward...