What is ReproflexologyTM?
By Barbara Scott
ReproflexologyTM (Reproductive Reflexology) is the study of and treatment of male and female reproductive conditions and fertility issues using reflexology.
One in six couples in the UK are now experiencing difficulties in conceiving, in addition to this, male fertility has declined by 50% in the last 25 years. This pattern appears to be replicated not only across Europe, but the rest of the world and even in developing countries, not normally associated with fertility issues, couples are finding that they are having difficulties getting pregnant.
There are, of course, many complex factors involved in the casual factors for both male and female fertility. Male fertility is still marginalised by fertility clinics who very much focus on the female, when what we know is that fertility issues are attributable proportionately, a third male, a third female and a third joint. This means that males are involved in approximately 50% of all cases of infertility and repeated miscarriage, and yet very little is done to explore these issues further. Many couples are now being offered IVF/ICSI with very little in the way of tests that might help them to understand what these might be, and allow them to conceive naturally. Interestingly, IVF/ICSI success rates have not increased since the birth of the first IVF baby, Louise Brown over thirty years ago and remain at a staggeringly low 25%. Many couples believe that IVF/ICSI is the panacea for their fertility difficulties and that they will end up with a baby at the end of their treatment. However, if you look at the live birth rates for most fertility clinics you will find that they are incredibly low and many quote their statistics for 25-29 year olds in their advertising, as this is likely to be the most fertile group with the highest success rates.
ReproflexologyTM and Success Rates
ReproflexologyTM provides a structured and prescriptive approach to fertility issues using medical testing to support evidence of its outcomes alongside the majority of couples having a baby at the end of their treatment. In a recent study carried out by the Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, 68% of clients conceived whilst having reflexology, using these prescriptive treatment protocols. The study looked at 180 clients, of whom 122 conceived whilst receiving reflexology, 100 conceived naturally, and a further 22 were being supported during IVF.
When treating couples it is important to ensure that we see both of them for initial consultation as without this, one will only have half of the information needed to make an informed basis for treatment. Some of the most important things to consider are their age, weight and height, what forms of contraception they have used, previous gynaecological history, any current or previous urinary tract or sexually transmitted infections. We know that all of these can have an effect upon fertility and the smallest anomaly can be the key to a solution.
Additionally, many prescribed medications, can have a detrimental affect upon fertility and pregnancy, so making a note of these and researching any effects upon fertility for both men and women will be an important part of building a picture of what might be causing a problem. We cannot suggest that our clients stop taking any medication, however, we can suggest that they see their medical practitioners for further advice.
Detailed information on any forms of assisted conception they have undertaken with their current or previous partner, which for IVF should include the number of cycles undertaken, and results for each cycle i.e. number of eggs harvested, number fertilised, grades of the embryos, how many were replaced and how many were frozen. This allows practitioners to identify patterns within treatment and also monitor the effects of reproductive reflexology during treatment.
Alcohol, smoking and drugs all have an affect on fertility for both men and women and there is much research to support this.
The current guidelines issued by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states no alcohol for women in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, as they believe there is no safe limit for alcohol consumption at this time. As it is difficult to predict when conception will take place, it makes sense to recommend abstinence whilst trying to conceive.
For men, it is suggested that 4 units (not glasses!) of good quality (preferably organic) red wine a week would be acceptable, but not beer or spirits as both can be responsible for elevated levels of free radicals which can cause damage to sperm DNA, morphology and motility.
Both smoking and drugs should be avoided due to their high levels of toxicity and in the case of drugs, the addition of unknown toxic substances. If clients are struggling with this then it would make sense to refer them on for additional support for addictions.
Current NICE guidelines for couples trying to conceive, suggest that if they have been trying to conceive for over 12 months (6 months if they are over 35) they can ask their GP for a basic semen analysis for the male and a basic hormone profile for the female. This provides invaluable information for practitioners not only in terms of what might be affecting a client’s fertility, but as a measure of the efficacy of reproductive reflexology.
A basic semen analysis will look at volume of seminal fluid, count in millions per ml of sperm, motility (how well they are moving) and morphology (formation). This provides us with some idea of male fertility and can also be repeated once they have been treated for 8 -12 weeks so assess their progress.
For women the main hormones for testing would be FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), LH (Luteinising Hormone), Oestradiol (Oestrogen), Prolactin and Thyroid Function Tests (TSH, T3 and T4). These tests should all be taken on days 1-3 of the menstrual cycle for the most accurate results (other than the Thyroid Function tests, which can be taken at any time) and provide information on ovarian reserve and functionality of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone should also be tested at 7 days post-ovulation to provide evidence of ovulation taking place and the levels of progesterone being produced to support implantation and pregnancy.
Basal Body Temperature Charting
Charting the menstrual cycle by taking the Basal Body Temperature at the same time each day is an excellent way of looking at the cycle in detail and also monitoring for improvements whilst using reflexology, please see the female case study included with this article.
For accuracy, the temperature needs to be taken orally (under the tongue) at the same time each day on waking, and before getting out of bed, eating drinking or speaking. This provides the BBT at its lowest and most accurately measurable level, and means that a chart can be plotted to show the temperatures during the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. It should show a lower temperature during the follicular phase, a dip at ovulation and temperatures at a higher level post-ovulation (when progesterone is being produced).
This means that we can accurately measure when ovulation is taking place, whether the right cervical mucous is being produced at the right time and whether the temperature (and therefore progesterone) is remaining high enough for long enough in the luteal phase of the cycle. It also means that if there are issues with ovulation or progesterone we use the ReproflexologyTM protocols to remedy these issues, then we can monitor their progress using the charts provided by clients. It is an invaluable tool.
Considerations When Working with Reproductive Couples
- How do you feel about working with couples discussing, what at times, will be intimate details of the their private lives.
- Keep safe – if working with a member of the opposite sex make sure that you are not on your own and there is someone else in the building, certainly until you feel have built a mutually respective working relationship with them.
- Be forensic in your approach to gathering information, sometimes it is the smallest thing that can make all the difference.
- Ensure that your clients feel safe and respected at all times. And ensure confidentiality both during their treatment sessions and with any medical notes.
- If your clients have been told to stop treatment or are asked not to have treatment by their fertility clinic you must abide by this. Your insurance will be invalidated if you don’t.
- When working with clients using assisted conception, make sure that you have a copy of their drug and treatment protocol. You will need to know what drugs they are taking, at what dosage and when they are taking them.
- When working alongside assisted conception you are using reflexology to promote the efficacy of the drugs that being taken.
- Always consider the emotional, physical, mental and practical affects of treatment upon your clients.
Female Case Study
Nia had been trying to conceive for 18mths without success and had been diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome and had a very irregular menstrual cycle, with no clear pattern of ovulation, and progesterone deficiency. She had been referred for treatment to her local fertility clinic and was awaiting an appointment.
We asked her to begin basal body temperature charting immediately and began treating her on a weekly basis. The weekly protocols aim to support each stage of the menstrual cycle, working during the bleed, the follicular and luteal phases to ensure that each stage was functioning as it should.
Using temp charting to monitor progress we could see that ovulation occurred more regularly, the luteal phase lengthened and progesterone levels rose.
Eight months later she was pregnant and after a straightforward and healthy pregnancy, gave birth to a little girl.
Relevant Reflex Points
Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Thyroid, Ovaries, Uterus, Fallopian Tubes, Pelvic Lymph Nodes. These points are stimulated, balanced or manipulated according to whether a client is in the follicular or luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. Or sedated during the bleed.
Male Case Study
Peter presented with a highly abnormal Semen Analysis result and elevated levels of Sperm DNA fragmentation. He and his wife had been trying to conceive for over 2 years and had a history of repeated miscarriage related to the elevated Sperm DNA fragmentation. He was referred for further testing to an Andrologist to ensure that we had current results, these confirmed his history.
Treatment and Reflex Points
Treatment was weekly for 12 weeks using a protocol that focused on the following reflex points:
Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Testes, Prostate, Vas deferens, Pelvic Lymph Nodes. And additionally reflex points to reduce stress levels.
These points are stimulated to encourage the production of greater quantities of sperm. Some of the reflex points are worked in combination to improve hormone communication between the relevant organs.
Repeat Semen Analysis showed improved numbers of sperm, increased sperm morphology and motility. The levels of Sperm DNA fragmentation had improved.
Six months later this couple fell pregnant and delivered a healthy baby boy.
Enzer, S, The Maternity Reflexology Manual, self-published, 2004
Barnes, B/Bradley S G, Planning for a Healthy Baby, Ebury Press, 1990
Barnes, B, Male Infertility – Fighting Back, Foresight, 2003
Fisch MD, H, The Male Biological Clock, Free Press, 2005
Lewis PhD, R, The Infertility Cure, Little Brown, 2005
Guillebaud, J, Your Questions Answered – Contraception, Churchill
Domar, A D PhD, Conquering Infertility, Viking, 2002
West, Z, Guide to Getting Pregnant, Harper Thorsons, 2005
Glenville PhD, M, The Nutritional Health Handbook for Women, Piatkus, 2001
Greer Prof, I, Fertility and Conception, Collins, 2007 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0378427484900900 www.organicconsumers.org/scientific/growth-hormones-fed-beef-cattle- damage-human-health http://www.whattoexpect.com/preconception/fertilityfoods.aspx
Jensen TK1, Swan SH, Skakkebaek NE, Rasmussen S, Jørgensen N,
Caffeine intake and semen quality in a population of 2,554 young Danish men, Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Apr 15;171(8):883-91. doi: 10.1093/aje/ kwq007. Epub 2010 Mar 25
http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/10October/Pages/Moderate-regular- drinking-may-still-damage-sperm.aspx http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/12December/Pages/wifi-laptop-signals- sperm-fertility-damage.aspx