Julie intro: Health is more than just diet and I’ve found over the years that complementary therapies work really well alongside diet and exercise. As a huge fan of reflexology (I used this therapy myself together with nutrition to recover from chronic fatigue and to aid fertility and counter stress), I asked Georgina from Lifespan Reflexology if she would write a guest blog for me. Her blog is packed full of great information. Please comment if you found it useful.
I feel I can’t start a blog on reflexology and fertility without giving you a bit of background into how I became a Reflexologist. So here goes…
I first discovered the wonders of Reflexology in 2003 after researching complementary therapies to help me conceive. After trying for a baby for nearly 2 years, including a year of fertility treatment with no success, I was willing to try anything in my quest to become a mum. At the time, I wasn’t a very big fan of feet. I absolutely hated mine (I have freaky finger like toes and size 8’s) and wasn’t keen on anyone touching them as they are super sensitive and very, very ticklish! But I read in a magazine (I think it was Company) that Reflexology could help couples suffering with fertility issues and was eager to give anything a go. So I looked up local reflexologists in the good old Yellow Pages and found the lovely Susan Reeves (who has since retired) and booked my first appointment.
After just one session I was totally hooked and couldn’t believe how amazing I felt for days afterwards. At the time I was in quite a stressful job in video production and found that it helped me relax in a way In hadn’t in years. I immediately booked a course of treatments and very soon decided I wanted to train in this wonderful therapy so I could treat my family and friends. My dear darling Nan had recently passed away and left me a little money, so I used it to pay for my tuition fees at the Association Of Reflexologists accredited course with The Philip Salmon School of Reflexology in London (thanks Nan xxx). Very soon after enrolling, and after 6 reflexology treatments with Sue, I discovered I was pregnant! Completely shocked and over the moon I called the school to see if I could still study whilst pregnant and they told me that it was quite common for people to fall pregnant whilst training and it wasn’t a problem. If I needed to defer and delay graduation at any stage then I could. And so it all began. I graduated in December 2004 following a year long course, having had Elliott half way through my training. And so my new career was also born.
Considering my journey into Reflexology, I felt it was obvious where my speciality was going to lie and my first post graduate course was in fertility and pregnancy. And this training served me well because in June 2005 I fell pregnant with Edie (who was born in March 2006) following the first part of training! I have since gone on to spend a further 18 months specialising in this area and have completed the most thorough and in depth training available. Most fertility and pregnancy courses consist of a day or two but one course I trained in took 6 months (with Susanne Enser, Midwife and Reflexology guru) and another, a year long course to gain a Diploma in Clinical Reflex Zone Therapy for Pregnancy and Childbirth with Denise Tiran, world renowned midwife and lecturer in Complementary Therapies. In April 2017, I updated my skills with the Natural Fertility Clinic with a weekend course which was incredibly educating and empowering.
So now you know how Reflexology helped change my life rather dramatically, I’ll explain how it might help you…
Reflexology has been known to man for thousands of years. It is a complementary therapy based on the idea of body maps in different parts of the body (I specialise in feet and faces!). By using specific pressure techniques, Reflexology helps the body gain homeostasis or balance, with everything working as well as it can. I does not claim to cure or diagnose. Reflexology may help prepare the body, mind and soul for the everyday miracle of conceiving, developing and birthing a new human being by helping to balance hormones and stimulate the bodies own healing mechanisms. Each session leaves you feeling relaxed and peaceful, thus allowing stress and tension to flow freely from the body which in turn may help conception take place. Although there are no guarantees, many people find relief from painful or irregular periods, absence of periods, conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovaries, or menopausal problems.
Trying for baby, if it doesn’t happen quickly, can be very, very stressful, whether you have fertility issues or not. Stress and infertility often go hand in hand and the two greatly effect each other. Experts believe that the consequence of failing to conceive a baby after a 12 month period can have the same impact on stress levels as having cancer or heart disease. With many women suffering severe depression as a result.
Stress has a huge impact on all the bodies systems and can send hormones bonkers. Here are just a few ways stress can affect fertility:
1. For a start it can ruin your libido. Having to perform at certain fertile times of the month can put a huge strain on both partners. The fact that stress hormones mess with your metabolism doesn’t help and can leave you feeling drained and lacking in energy.
2. The adrenal glands steal progesterone from the reproductive system to make cortisol – the stress hormone. So where does it steal it from…yes that’s right, the all important luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, which can potentially make it difficult to sustain a pregnancy.
3. Stress can increase the hormone prolactin produced by the pituitary gland and can halt ovulation. Follicle growth and development are also impaired. Stress reduces the secretion of oestrogen from the follicle which reduces the thickness of the endometrium and the fertile mucous. Irregular periods, more painful periods and changes in cycle length can all follow.
4. Stress affects the part of the immune system responsible for preventing miscarriage in early pregnancy.
So what can you do to combat the effects of stress? Well, as this is a reflexology blog, the first thing I’d suggest is having regular reflexology treatments as it is proven to reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure and also have a positive impact on the central nervous system.
Having an hour or so to truly relax impacts every system of the body favourable, including the hormonal system. If that’s not your thing then massage, facials, pamper treatments, warm baths, walking in nature and avoiding stressful situations are all obvious suggestions but you may also want to try meditation (the Headspace app is very popular), relaxing music or maybe talking about it by joining support groups which may all help. Abdominal breathing techniques are also popular and you can learn how to do this here
Reflexology is known for its stress relieving benefits and I believe for many people, by taking away some of the stress is enough and they soon fall pregnant.
Reflexology can also be wonderful if a couple is going through assisted conception. Years ago, my training taught me that it was unwise to treat women who were taking clomid or more hardcore IVF medication whilst they were actually taking the meds or injections. The reasoning behind this train of thought was that as reflexology aims to bring balance and normalise bodily functions (ie. producing one egg per month and not multiple, which is the aim of most ovary stimulating drugs), treatment would counteract the medicine. I always thought this was a ridiculous idea as these medications are extremely powerful and a gentle therapy like reflexology can in no way over power the drugs, in the same way that it can in no way cause miscarriage. If this were true surely Reflexologists would be discouraged from treating anyone who was taking medication, which again is a rather silly notion. Thankfully the Association of Reflexologists, maternity reflexology teachers and other governing bodies have gained some common sense and now believe that this is the time when women need the support of reflexology most and that the therapy may in fact enhance the medications and make them more successful.
There is no doubt that IVF is an incredibly stressful process and the drugs have some uncomfortable side effects A long cycle effectively puts women in to the menopause by down regulating their menstrual cycles. This can leave women with horrendous hot flushes, headaches, insomnia and play mayhem with your emotions. All symptoms which I believe can be relieved through reflexology.
Following this the ovaries will be stimulated, then triggered, eggs are collected, then inseminated and then there’s the agonising wait to see how many have fertilised. All of this can cause great anxiety and stress which can be lessened by a relaxing, calming reflexology treatment. The only time during an IVF cycle when it is recommended to be hands off is after the eggs have been implanted back into the uterus. This is because it is believed that the eggs survive better in a low oxygen environment before implantation, and as reflexology increases circulation, i.e. blood carrying oxygen all around the body, including to the uterus, it’s best avoided. Once implantation has taken place after day 5ish you’re good to continue reflexology. It’s then highly likely you’ll be given uncomfortable progesterone suppositories to help thicken the uterine lining, which have their own side effects and again reflexology can help relieve these and help keep you calm and relaxed.
Other ovary stimulating medications such as Clomid can have horrendous side effects (believe me, I remember them well) such as headaches, breast tenderness, nausea, diarrhoea, hot flushes and general irritability and tearfulness. Again, this is a great time to have a treatment as reflexology might help ease some of these nasty symptoms.
As I said earlier, there are no guarantees that Reflexology will help you get pregnant but many believe that it played a big part in their journey and that it helped a great deal in a time when they needed support and care.
Here’s a summary of advice for those trying to conceive:
Get to know your menstrual cycle. Ovulation kits and apps can be great, but in my opinion the best way to find out if and when you’re ovulating is by monitoring your Basal Body Temperature and monitoring cervical mucous. To monitor your temp you need a chart and ovulation thermometer and instructions and downloads can be found here: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a7069/download-a-basal-body-temperature-and-cervical-mucus-chart
Avoid toxins – stop smoking, avoid excess alcohol, eat clean (see Julie if you need some help here) and exercise gently (too much pavement pounding and hard core gym activity may increase adrenaline and cortisol which steals progesterone)
Avoid stress – easier said than done but try reflexology or some of the techniques above.
See a chiropractor or osteopath – any accidents, falls or injuries can affect the whole musculoskeletal system and if the pelvis is misaligned it could make conception tricky.
The big O – have sex regularly (now this may sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many people think once a month is enough). If you have a 28 day cycle, try and muster the energy to have intercourse every other day from day 10 to 20 of your cycle to make sure you hit those fertile days. Orgasms for both partners increase fertility and if the woman climaxes after the male, her cervix pushes forwards dipping into the pool of semen, increasing the chances of the sperm entering her cervix and the uterus and finally finding the unfertilised egg.
For my FREE comprehensive guide to conception, which includes instructions on taking your basal temp and reflexology self help techniques, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. For my top tips on boosting fertility with reflexology please view my short video here.
If your life goal is to have a baby then addressing diet, lifestyle and stress issues can increase your chance of conception.
To book a fertility reflexology session click here.
To book a fertility nutrition session click here.