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Reflexology in Conception, Pregnancy and Postnatal Care

by Elena Francesca Barbiero(more info)

listed in reflexology, originally published in issue 145 - March 2008

“The baby is turned upside down…” She sighed.  “The nurse tried to turn it, but she couldn’t… I don’t know what to do…” She paused while regaining composure. She sounded like she was about to cry. “I heard Reflexology can help, do you think you can do something?”

The woman sounded very distressed.

She was coming up to the 39th week of her pregnancy, and the baby was still breach, so understandably, especially as it was the first time, she was very anxious.

“Look, I can’t promise Reflexology will turn the baby… in fact, I am not sure anything can at all… however: I am sure of one thing and that is, feeling anxious and fearful will not help you face this situation in the right way. Why don’t you come and have a treatment and we can take it from there?”

Amanda, as it turned out, came to see me that very day. A tall woman in her mid-thirties, this was her first child: a common occurrence nowadays, where the average age for women to have children is 35.

As soon as I touched her feet, I could feel tension swoosh all over my solar plexus: the tension reached the base of my spine. This is normal for me: for some reason, I can tune into other people’s emotional states very easily. I have used this ability with excellent results in my work.

The baby, according to the nurse, had ‘engaged’ with the bottom in the birth canal. No wonder Amanda was sick with worry: but I sensed there was more, so I asked her. It comes out that she had had a previous pregnancy, and the baby had been still born.

While piecing up all the jigsaws of the puzzle, I reasoned that her deep state of tension was probably blocking the natural flow of things, preventing her body from preparing the baby for labour. The previous trauma was still there energetically and emotionally speaking: she was probably subconsciously re-living that trauma, now that labour was approaching.

Assuming that it was her state of mind that was causing the foetus not to turn head down, I worked on the thyroid, the spine, the adrenals, the pituitary, the solar plexus, gently but firmly (if it makes sense), in order to ease any feelings of anxiety. 

A mother myself, I also talked her through the process of birth, the flow, the letting go and the accepting the pain of the contractions as something that helps the process, therefore as something good.

I asked Amanda to talk to the baby and say to the little person that everything was ok and that she was safe: this seemed to calm Amanda greatly.

An hour later, the bump had changed shape and Amanda had felt the foetus move. The baby did turn eventually in the next few days.

Magic? I, myself, wasn’t sure at all of what was going to happen: you can never give an iron cast guarantee with complementary therapies, as there are so many factors involved. In this case my ‘diagnosis’ and the action taken had been effective.

This is the dilemma the complementary therapist is often faced with, as you can’t make false promises and when things do work, it’s very difficult to explain how.

Pregnancy Reflexology is in itself a branch within Reflexology.

According to the IFR (International Federation of Reflexologists) it is not safe to treat the mother before 16th weeks of gestation. Other schools put the limit at 12 weeks.

I have personally treated healthy women at their 12th week, giving a very light treatment, which is still quite effective, simply because reflexology is a vibrational technique.

Through pressure in specific points, the therapist is able to access the energy pathway and clear/stimulate a corresponding organ, this purely on the energetic level. The way reflexology works is in fact based on the same principle of acupuncture, except that reflexology uses a ‘map’ on hands and feet, to access body organs, as opposed to meridians.

After the 16th week it is universally deemed safe to stimulate most points, with the exception of liver, pituitary, reproductive organs, and may I add any vigorous work on the endocrine system at all. This is to avoid any accidental ‘labour trigger’: the foetus should be well established anyway at this stage, as all organs are formed and the baby is only growing bigger from then on.

Caution is always required when treating pregnant women, but it’s definitely worth considering receiving a treatment. The help and relief mothers receive from a reflexology session is very substantial, and as a therapist the work is even more rewarding. There is always something special about the energy surrounding a mother-to-be.

Reflexology can help with circulation, any muscle/skeletal problem, and very much any anxiety associated with fears, conscious and subconscious. I once treated a lady whose water retention was so bad in the legs and feet, that while treating you could actually see the liquid shifting upwards. Other times, I have spent a good part of the session explaining how labour works and how to support this process instead of unwittingly sabotage it. A mother myself, I am a good advert for what I preach: my first labour lasted four hours, the second a mere 45 minutes!

According to the London School of Reflexology, whose founder, Louise, runs a one-day course in conception, pregnancy and post-natal reflexology, this therapy has a key role in balancing hormones and therefore is a substantial player in assisting with ovulation and conception.

If one component of the endocrine system is out of balance, the whole system will be unbalanced: while trying to conceive, it is therefore important to work most organs related and subsidiary to hormone production (adrenal, reproductive, pancreas, parathyroid and thyroid, lymphatic). These very points will then be carefully avoided throughout the pregnancy.

Only after the 37th week is it then safe to start addressing endocrine glands and reproductive system, in preparation for labour. A study had shown that women who received reflexology during pregnancy had a labour 60% shorter than counterparts who didn’t. Having gone through two labours, although very short ones, I really think this alone should convince women to have a few treatments during pregnancy!

Labour can be triggered through pressure on specific points, which can be quite painful as they are usually very sore in preparation for delivery. This is because the energy is gathering.

In my experience, a short delivery is often the product of a mind that allows the body to do the work, welcoming contractions pain as a positive factor, as addressed overleaf. The more mum ‘welcomes’ contractions, the quicker the whole process will unfold; it’s probably easier said than done, as pain is subconsciously associated to danger. But there is good pain, and contractions are just that. If you are an expecting mother, remember this: each and every contraction is opening up the birth canal and bringing you near to the moment when labour will be a distant memory!

What everybody says about reflexology, universally, after trying it for the first time, is how different they expected it to be and how lighter they feel. In terms of post-natal care, this is exactly what reflexology has to offer, lifting the gloom and providing the body with a much needed energy re-charge, after the hormone drop that follows birth. It’s vital that mothers not only take care of their baby, but also of themselves: a happy mother is a guarantee for a happy child.

Babies can also be treated, albeit very lightly and for a short time. The Reflexologist should avoid the reproductive organs in children generally and if using essential oils, use only the ones that are safe, such as lavender and chamomile roman.

As you can see, reflexology has a lot to offer to mother, during pregnancy and after. Complementary therapies have a lovely habit of becoming so much more than a random session: touch therapies in particular provide a fantastic medium to bond with your children at a non-verbal level.

Although alternative therapies are very popular, it is sadly true that only 0.5% of research funding is allocated to complementary health, precluding, in practice, the possibility to scientifically prove the validity of therapies such as acupuncture, shiatsu, reflexology and more, which, empirically, we know work.

Complementary therapies often bridge the gap and provide solutions where allopathic medicine can’t go.

That’s very much the experience many mothers in my clinic have had. Doctors and nurses themselves often recommend alternative therapies, as they view such therapies as ‘complementary’ and not in competition with ‘normal’ medical care.

“Massage saved my life, when I was pregnant with my first baby”, says Penny from London, who received massage and reflexology treatments over the last three months of pregnancy. “The baby was huge and I started feeling very uncomfortable from the end of the 6th month. My lower back ached, my legs were swollen and I had terrible heartburn. I couldn’t sleep at night because it hurt everywhere. Massage relaxed me and helped with the water retention, but I believe reflexology alleviated any other symptoms, making a horrific situation much more tolerable.”

As a therapist, I have heard similar testimonials over and over again. It’s a huge step forward that many hospitals are now offering complementary care. 

Amanda, I heard, did have her baby naturally and there was therefore no need for a Caesarean, which was a huge relief for her. I could totally sympathise with her initial anxiety and subsequent relief, when things turned out fine.

She is now a firm convert to reflexology although she doesn’t quite understand how it works. “I still don’t understand it, but it doesn’t matter; it worked for me”, she said last time we met, when she came to thank me.

I couldn’t help but have a peek at the lovely baby girl who was blissfully sleeping in the buggy.

There and then, watching the beautiful baby, a bit of nostalgia got hold of me. My children, who are now seven and nine, are well past the baby years, and they have come into being real little people now. Babies have something so pure about them. ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have another one?’ I thought to myself. Note: need partner to have baby! Currently single and happy to be, not good start!

So if and when I have another baby, and that’s a really big if, I’ll make sure I receive reflexology. For the moment, I am happy to share the joy of pregnancy and childbirth watching from far, and using my knowledge and personal experience to help mums give their child the best possible start.

Further information:

International Federation of Reflexologists Tel: 0870 8793562;
British Reflexology Association Tel: 01886 821207;
Association of Reflexologists Tel: 0870 5673320’
The Institute of Complementary Medicine Tel: 020-7231 5885;;
The British Complementary Medicine Association Tel: 01242 519911;;

Complementary Therapies on the NHS (London):
The Royal Marsden Hospital Tel: 020-73528171
Royal London Homeopathic Hospital Tel: 0845 1555 000

There are five Homeopathic hospitals nationwide. Many other hospitals, private and NHS, do offer complementary
therapies but on a private basis only.


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About Elena Francesca Barbiero

Elena Francesca Barbiero BSc (Hons) ITEC is an experienced complementary therapist who specializes in Emotional Freedom Technique in combination with a variety of techniques/therapies, such as Reflexology, Reiki Healing, Metamorphic Technique, Holistic Massage and Aromatherapy to mention a few.

Elena has worked as a therapist since 2002 in established London clinics and is also a contributor to Positive Health PH Online. She is a member of AAMET International (Association for the Advancement of Meridian Energy Techniques). Elena may be contacted via

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