Having a baby? Treat your feet
PUTTING your feet up is always a treat. And never more so than when pregnant, especially if your tootsies are being experting massaged by a specially trained therapist.
Maternity reflexology can be a little slice of pampering heaven -- or so say expectant mothers-to-be.
What makes it even better is that this therapy is endorsed by maternity hospitals including the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin's Holles St as the evidence mounts of its benefits, especially in labour.
It is said to encourage the body's innate ability to restore a healthy balance during this challenging and changing time for your body.
For those unfamiliar with reflexology, it is an ancient treatment based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet, hands and ears corresponding to every organ and part of the body, and that by applying pressure to these reflexes, specific bodily functions and organs are stimulated.
Ethna McQuillan is a Clontarf-based therapist with 16 years experience.
In latter years, the mother-of three has offered a variety of maternity-related therapies in which she 'mothers the mother' before and after a birth. Ethna is open to giving a reflexology treatment during labour itself with homebirth mothers.
The difference between maternity and conventional reflexology is the areas of the foot (and by extension the body) that are left untouched. These include the uterus, ovaries and the pituitary gland -- the body's master gland which plays a role in naturally inducing labour if required.
"When it comes to what is safe and what isn't in pregnancy, opinion is constantly changing. Ten years ago, it would have been unheard of to do reflexology during pregnancy but now, based on feedback from mothers, a huge amount of nurses, midwives and doulas have been trained in it and use it on patients," says Ethna.
"Reflexology prepares the body for labour by rebalancing all the body systems and organs that have been thrown out of whack. The hormones are all over the place, the body is carrying excess blood and the liver and kidneys are working on behalf of the baby as well as the mother, so the reflexology tries to restore balance.
"Not only can regular treatments in the six to eight weeks prior to a woman's due date reduce the length of their labour, but reflexology can also be used to help induce labour naturally and avoid being chemically induced in hospital. Several clients say the reflexology pressed their 'eject' button!"
One mother-in-waiting who hopes not to need the button-pressing services of Ethna is Denise from Blackrock, Co Dublin.
At 35, she has two little boys -- Daniel (4) and Matthew (3) -- and is five-and-a-half months pregnant with her third child.
For the first time, Denise is trying maternity reflexology and is enjoying the relaxation and reassurance offered in a half-hour massage session.
"It's tough juggling working full-time with two small kids and another one on the way. After hearing so many good reports about reflexology, I decided to give it a try and so far I've found it great, especially when it comes to getting a more restful night's sleep.
"Not only do I reap the rewards afterwards, I like the space for myself in the session which I don't get otherwise, and as soon as she touches my big toe -- which is connected to the head -- I conk out."
Verdict from Denise: "I'd recommend it on several counts: it allows you time to chill out; it is a reassuring regular check-up with a practitioner experienced in dealing with pregnant women; it works; and all you have to do it take your socks off."
A maternity reflexology session with Ethna McQuillan costs €55. To make an appointment call 086 647 8898