Natural childbirth remedies: reflexology

Ok, not so much a remedy as an aid or induction technique, perhaps?

I am a firm believer in the benefits of many alternative therapies* – whether the effects are physical, psychological – or both. In fact, I’m a qualified massage therapist, don’t you know, so I’m probably a little biased. But I think it’d be hard to deny that touch has a wonderfully soothing, immediately positive effect on a huge range of ailments.

I’ve long heard reflexology mentioned as beneficial while pregnant – to tackle any hormonal imbalances, as a relaxing therapy and also to treat the dreaded third trimester pregnancy cankles/swollen feet.

In short, reflexology is built on the belief that different areas of the feet correspond to certain areas and systems in the body. Many reflexology points correspond with those taught in Chinese acupuncture and my therapy, Thai yoga massage, which is very interesting to a geek like me.

I’ve been lucky enough not to have suffered from swollen feet and I’ve had a couple of pregnancy massages over the past eight or so months, so time and money hasn’t allowed for any reflexology. However, at the end of my second pregnancy massage a few weeks ago, my therapist did five minutes of reflexology at the end to the treatment. A blissful, deeply peaceful five minutes where I nearly fell asleep. This led me to booking on an additional half hour of reflexology on my ‘congrats for reaching full term’ massage last week, to focus on getting this baby out now that I’ve passed my due date.

I find it really hard to switch off during ‘enforced’ relaxation time: during many years of attempted yoga relaxation wind downs. I often just compile mental to do lists as that’s way more soothing than getting agitated at being unable to join in with the guided visualisations. But for some reason, light repetitive pressure applied to my feet practically sends me to sleep.

Aside from the relaxation aspect, reflexology can apparently be used to induce labour, by stimulating specific pressure points linked to the endocrine system, thus releasing the hormones needed to get labour going. In spite of the very gentle pressure used, my feet also felt light and free of tension after the treatment.

I haven’t benefited from the induction benefits yet, but if I had the time, I’d definitely book myself in for a follow up treatment just for the blissful half hour of relaxation and would highly recommend as a pregnancy treat if you’re considering it. A series of treatments during the last month or two of pregnancy would probably be more effective than my random approach.

If you’re Warwickshire-based, I’d highly recommend Lisa Moore at the Leamington Therapy Centre (she also does a fantastic pregnancy massage, which I may blog about separately!) If you can’t get to a therapist, you could enlist a willing partner or friend to do a DIY treatment.

Have you had any success with reflexology to encourage labour – or any other alternative therapies?

*Not reiki, which just seems a little too hocus pocus for me – also – no massage involved; what’s that all about?

It’s a marathon

Source: Pinterest

I leave blogging for a few weeks and before I know it, I’m in the third trimester.

Time is now going very fast. This is good because I’m not particularly looking forward to going back to work after the Christmas break (11am lie-ins, don’t go, I need you) – and maternity leave is now firmly on the horizon with just six weeks of work to go.

However, I’m quite happy that at 31 weeks pregnant, I still (probably) have at least nine weeks of organisation (and resting) time to go. Especially since the third trimester fatigue and aches and pains are slowly setting in. Just when I was relishing the excellent second trimester energy boost, bam. So annoyingly predictable.

My pace is gradually being forced down as the baby claims yet more abdominal space. Where my stomach now is, I really have no idea. My lungs on the other hand, just feel like they’re being slowly compressed. By about 3pm every day, my mid-vertebrae feel like they want to pop out and start again tomorrow.

I’m totally aware that I’ve had an excellent pregnancy so far, in the grand scheme of things. I’ve avoided bad back pain, SPD and icky things like piles, constipation and varicose veins – so far. With that in mind, I’m adopting my marathon mindset for the remaining couple of months: just block it all out until you’re near the end. I’m not allowing myself to get in the mindset of slowing down too much or thinking about maternity leave until it’s imminent – perhaps 36 weeks since I finish at 38 weeks.

Don’t get me wrong: the sofa will remain very much my friend. But if I can, there are things I want to do over the coming weeks that starting to wind down mentally won’t help with: getting back to the swimming pool and eating more fruit and veg being just a couple.

And if it all goes t*ts up and I end up knackered and in defeat in a few weeks? Then at least I tried. The first step: getting an earlyish night for my 6:45am back-to-work wakeup tomorrow. Sob.

Losing my feet; finding my voice

It’s happened: I’m at the stage that I always imagined when I pictured how pregnancy would be.

There’s a definite bump and it’s getting scarily bigger every day. My maternity clothes actually fit like they’re supposed to and I’ve even had to beg and borrow some more (thanks Esme!)

Carrying around this undeniable sign that I’m pregnant all day, every day has been fascinating. To watch people’s sly glances at work from around 20 weeks while they were trying to figure out if I’d been eating too many office breakfasts or whether I was actually up the duff – to people’s little smiles now when they spot my nearly-28-week bump and realise that there’s a new little person in there.

It’s heart warming to know people do notice – and care. Especially given the long, tiring months of the first and second trimester in a brand new job feeling absolutely shocking but not being able to tell a soul.

Knowing that people are looking out for me has even made me patient with the repetitive Pregnancy Questions (PQs). Similar to the Wedding Questions (when’s the big day? What’s your colour scheme? Etc…), the PQs are predictable but well-meant. They often include the following: when are you due? Do you know if you’re having a girl or a boy? Have you had any cravings? I’m sure any of you currently or recently pregnant ladies will be able to reel off a load more.

I didn’t have a great deal of patience with the Wedding Questions, I have to be honest. Maybe it was the fact that we didn’t have a colour scheme – and no, I STILL hadn’t found a dress I liked. But the PQs I have much more time for, for some reason. Maybe answering them is some kind of payoff for the kindness of strangers? Maybe the hormones have got to me and I’ve developed a new level of saintly patience (given the grief my husband gets some days: unlikely)?

But I like the fact that I can open up to people I don’t really know and have an inconsequential chat with them – knowing that we’ll both come away from the conversation with a spring in our step.


Burning with the bump

Me, in fitter times.

Me, in fitter times.

I hauled my sorry self out of bed yesterday, ignoring the dark, cold day outside; drove into work; sat down at my desk. And promptly tried not to cry. I haven’t ached this much all over since my pre-pregnancy return to body pump classes. I actually thought I might be coming down with a virus.

But no, I was just being a bit pathetic – although I still feel a little bit awful today, pity me. This weekend saw me do two bits of exercise: the first proper breathless workouts I’ve done in more than three months.

The first was an ill-advised walk-jog down the road with the husband and back again. Aside from the novelty of just about managing to zip up my previously baggy running top over my growing bump, it was probably a bad idea. I didn’t push it too much and alternated a couple of minutes’ gentle jogging with walking – but I won’t lie, my joints really ached the next day and not in a good way.

The second session was a million times better and with a specialist antenatal personal trainer, natch.

I did wonder whether another chunk of cash spent on the one-off session might be a bit extravagant, on top of my second block of pregnancy yoga sessions (and the million other baby bits we seem to be acquiring). But it was absolutely £40 very well spent. You see, I’m one of those insufferable people who gets out of sorts, frustrated, ok even slightly angry if I don’t get enough fresh air and exercise. The past couple of months haven’t been my best (and just don’t ask my poor husband what my mood’s been like). I really needed to snap out of it and get back to a bit of exercise.

My trainer, also a qualified midwife, knew her stuff and had the reassuring air that comes with having dealt with thousands of pregnant ladies. I booked the session partly for some exercise ideas to try out while pregnant – but equally for the reassurance that I could pick up exercise again after months of horrible nausea and tiredness – and not die/hurt my baby.

Advice around exercise while pregnant is extremely sketchy, so I’d lost confidence in what was safe and possible to do, beyond swimming and yoga. I know that women have different needs and conditions during pregnancy, so I can understand the requirement to speak to a GP or midwife before exercising – but even the advice I received from both when explaining my predicament was very vague. If you want to do more than light stretching – but haven’t matched the stealth of Paula Radcliffe and continued to run 10Ks since getting your positive pregnancy test, it seems that you fall into the gulf of No Information. However, apparently, people like me are in the majority and most pregnant women start exercising again when they’re 16-20 weeks pregnant. Phew.

I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account of the session, but it gave me the knowledge and reassurance that I needed and has given me a fresh enthusiasm for exercise, which was very much needed.

The workout Bernadette showed me consisted of some interval power walking with weights (this is what caused a lot of my aching I think!) and then some mat work inside, going through core strength exercises. Who knew power walking was so strenuous? I would have mocked it previously, but it really did the trick at giving me a blood pumping workout – while not feeling too hard on my achy running bones.

While we stuck to walking down the road and mat work in my living room – the principles of aerobic interval and core strength training are ones that I can easily take to the gym too. Haha Mr Gym Manager, just when you thought you’d made a packet on my annual upfront payment, I will finally strike back (albeit very slowly – wearing ridiculously stretched gym gear).

Just a few useful points and principles from the workout that we went through that I’ll definitely be using both outside and in the gym:

  • 10 minutes’ warm up – including stretching, around five minutes’ walking and a posture check (the pelvis position check was a revelation – if you’re pregnant, I urge you to do this as much as possible – google it).
  • 20 minutes of cardio intervals – this could be power walking, cross trainer, etc. Five minutes of warming up and down and ten minutes of interval training (two minutes at 50 per cent effort and one minute at 70-80 per cent)
  • 15 minutes’ resistance training – we did a box press up, squats and side leg raises on the mat – and some others which I can’t explain fully in a pithy style… It was good to know that things like press ups and squats are still ok – as this is the kind of thing I wasn’t sure about.
  • 10 minutes’ cool down – gentle stretching.

Ok, so I haven’t actually made it outside in my trainers again yet – or to the gym – but I can actually see it happening this week and have the drive to make it happen, which is a great turnaround in motivation from last week. If you’re in the same situation as me and have the time and cash, I would wholeheartedly recommend finding a trainer who specialises in antenatal fitness and getting back on it. And if you’re based around Warwickshire, I would definitely look Bernadette up.

Maternity wear – quick fixes

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Yesterday, I wore a grey top and black leggings to yoga. In the summer of 2010, I wore the ‘top’ as a dress, bare legged. How times (and the area of my arse) have changed.

This wardrobe ‘adaptation’ (or desperate search for something to cover my bum) got me thinking about the little things that can be done to switch up your standard wardrobe to something more suitable for maternity, without having to shell out for a new set of maternity clothes. Pretty useful for early pregnancy in particular, where you haven’t got a clue what the hell your body is doing and whether you’ll still be the same size next week (let alone tomorrow).

I’ve been thinking about doing a couple of posts on the epic topic that is maternity wear – having found it very tricky to find decent quality, decent value things that don’t make me feel 15 years older than I am. However, this seems like a more sensible place to start. And somewhere I really should have begun, rather than diving head first into the ASOS summer maternity sale, at around 10 weeks pregnant.

So, some useful little things that I’ve personally found have helped to eke out my standard clothes a little longer…

Bra extenders – truly, a work of God. Love these ugly but functional strips of elastic. I got three for less than £3.00 delivered from ebay. I knew these existed before, but didn’t think to get any.

The extenders just clip onto your bra fasteners, thus giving you a few delicious additional CM of give in the band area. I could have saved a depressing half hour and £20 spent in M&S in a desperate search for a comfortable bra in my first trimester if I’d have got some of these earlier. Not to mention many sore red marks around my rib cage. Apparently your rib cage expands during the second and third trimesters (not to mention additional boob growth) – so I’ll probably get some use out of these even after having bought a few more maternity bras.

Longline vest top – again, I only got a decent long vest top a couple of weeks ago and really should have got one sooner. Mine was £3.49 from New Look and has washed really well so far. I only have the one in black, but even this has meant that I can wear tops that I previously wouldn’t have gone near due to trouser overspill-baring danger.

I’ll definitely get some more of these to last me the next few months – they also do a three pack for £9.99.

Maternity tights – these were one of the first maternity items I bought and I’m really glad I got them early on as they’re so damn comfy. I don’t think I can go back to standard tights: why would you not want a nice tummy panel to pull things in and avoid waist overspill? Maternity tights meant that I was still happy wearing most of the dresses in my wardrobe up until a few weeks ago – they are comfy while being supportive, so ideal for concealing first trimester bloat. And cheaper than buying a new dress or trousers, too.

I have a few pairs now and the best are these £8 pair from ASOS and this pair from Boots – also £8 – but half price if you’ve joined the Boots Parenting Club, as they send you a voucher. The ASOS pair are soft and opaque while not being too thick. They also have a gummy band to the top which holds them up well. I’ve seen that ASOS now have more opaque options in stock for winter, so I might be back to try some other options (I’m a sucker for a high denier). The Boots pair are a similar fit and slightly more opaque – probably better for the colder weather.

Sizing up – yes, obvious but true. I bought a few autumn jumpers from H&M when they first got their new season stock in – all a size or two above what I normally wear. Partly as I know H&M stuff has a tendency to shrink after washing, but partly to give me a little extra room for growing. So glad I did this, as over the past couple of months these jumpers have been a little bit of interesting in my old and rapidly shrinking wardrobe. So, if you’re thinking of buying a few bits even very early on in your pregnancy, sizing up will give you a load more wear – plus, again, covering that first trimester bloat way before a bump is on the agenda.

I didn’t get on with the idea of bump bands, so can’t comment on their usefulness. Also,  the elastic band around the button thing for trousers just didn’t work for me due to aforementioned bloat and the fear of it pinging off in work (seriously, is this not a worry for most people?)

Are there any other quick and easy tips and tricks for making clothes pregnancy-friendly? Please drop me a comment below. Anything that stops me buying the fortune currently lingering in my ASOS saved items basket would be great.

140 days and counting

In late June 2013 I took a pregnancy test that appeared to have two faint lines.

The next flimsy stick developed the same, very light blue strips.

After nearly two years of waiting; hoping; waiting again, this had to be a mistake.

So predictably, off we went to Boots, another couple eagerly lining the pockets of Clearblue Ltd with a ‘proper’ test that would tell us definitively whether the dull bathroom light was playing tricks on my hopeful eyes or not.

Fast forward 16 weeks to late October and here I am, a bona fide pregnant lady. 21 weeks gone and just starting to get an undeniable bump. It’s all really weird.

I’ve always liked to write, but for a while have struggled to find the push to do it outside of work. Pregnancy so far has been a complete tumble of joy and despair; clarity and utter confusion: so this seems like a good time to start blogging – to make some sense of it all.

I’ve gone through the sickness and shatteredness (tiredness does not do it justice) and now it’s only laziness that’s stopping me from documenting this pregnancy – so I’ll do my best to catch up over the coming months. No plans or themes, just a record of the second half of growing this new little person.

Pregnancy test