It is amazing to think that Kathryn has been working in clinic since 2011 with clients seeking Reflexology to help them achieve a baby. Where has that time gone?

Clearly in everything we do in clinic we try to be professional, factual, evidence-based and comply at all times with the requirements on us not to make claims.

Recently we have been challenged about the research base for suggesting that reflexology may help balance hormones. Also that reflexology may have a role to play in helping clients to conceive and maintain that pregnancy to term. This has got us thinking (a link to just some of the research in this area is below).

We would never tell a client ‘yes we can help you get pregnant!’ However we do get a lot of referrals from other mothers who have been to see us and had successful outcomes so these referrals are hopeful that they may get the same result.

Always Kathryn advises them that the biggest single factor she has ever found, including in her own journey via several miscarriages over a period of years starting 34 years ago, to prevent a client from conceiving is stress. Stress about paying the bills, stress about work, stress about family issues, so many aspects but also, when it comes to fertility, not hitting the ovulation date, getting fixated on cycle lengths, not producing a baby to meet hopes of grandparents or other family members, not conceiving at the same time as their friends and so much more. As cycles pass without a pregnancy that stress can rise, and rise, and rise further.

If those hopeful parents then move on to IVF then the stakes rise yet further as they worry about poor quality or shortage of eggs, poor quality (motility / morphology) of sperm, how many cycles they might need, can they afford to go private and so their stress levels can rise, but those stress levels can impact their hormones and indeed the IVF hormones themselves may give rise to stress responses in their body, because no hormones are entirely disconnected from the overall endocrine system and indeed the limbic (our basic survival) system – the interconnections are widespread.

We advise all clients to focus on avoiding the rollercoaster of ‘are we?’, ‘are we?’, ‘are we?’ and then the downward spiral of disappointment when a period starts. Each of these cycles of mounting hope and then seeing those hopes dashed becomes ever harder for the would-be parents to extricate themselves from.

Kathryn is strongly of the opinion that avoiding these alternating cycles of hope and despair is key to better support the likelihood of a pregnancy taking place. There is a growing body of evidence which backs this up it seems. She has also for years been working on ‘IVF clients’, ie. alongside them also having IVF, to help them keep their stress under control – together with giving advice such as about going for walks out connecting with nature and making time to stand and stare. Obviously a good diet, exercise and taking time for yourself are key too but above all we need to remember that we are animals. If zoo animals suffer stress their fertility goes down, likewise intensive farming can see animal reproduction fall, why would we be any different?

A Professor of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience at Stanford University, Robert M  Sapolsky in his book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” now in its third edition since it was first published 30 years ago compares the “real” stresses of life – encountered “episodically” by wild animals (whereby typically they run away or fight) – and the psychological stresses experienced by humans which often build up iteratively: leading to chronic issues including cardiovascular disease; destroying our sleep; aging us faster, and impacting our sense of control over circumstances and situations. He states that “reproduction, probably the most energy-expensive, optimistic thing you can do with your body (especially if you are female) is curtailed – worry about eggs and sperm and that sort of thing some other time, keep your mind and your energies on the job in hand [e.g. running from the perceived “threat”]. Females are less likely to ovulate or carry pregnancies to term”. He has an extensive chapter entirely on ‘Sex and Reproduction’ explaining how stress of all types, including for instance dieting/anorexia, can impact fertility and also why so much research in this area is problematic e.g. when it is conducted on females who have already had years of failing to conceive and this alone could be responsible for their stress thus skewing the data. In pulling his findings together he draws heavily on how animals in the bigger picture respond to stress and its impact on reproduction for us all as the animals we are.

Reflexology is not competing with IVF – the two are entirely different in both their aims and their approach. 

Reflexology is entirely natural and simply aims to relax the body, make it feel safe, allow the body to move into a state of homeostasis with rhythmic functioning to the greatest degree possible to optimise the natural process of conceiving in a safe space.

IVF is a medical intervention involving the harvesting of eggs, the introduction of hormones into the would-be parent at pre-set timings and more. IVF offers options for people who may not have the opportunity to conceive naturally for so many reasons and it offers hope for many.

As we pulled together just some of the research into reflexology and also the inter-relationship between stress and fertility we thought some may find what we have pulled together interesting and we present it to you here.