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Maternity reflexology conference by Gill Thomson
Gill Thomson, practising midwife, health visitor, and therapist, provides a personal account of her experience at the first International Conference on Maternity Reflexology My fellow trainer, Jenni Grant, and I travelled to Israel in October 2009
to attend the first international Maternity Reflexology conference. The conference had been organised by Mauricio (Moshe) Kruchik who wished to bring together some of the leading speakers in the maternity reflexology field to share and impart their wisdom and experiences with fellow reflexologists holding a shared interest. Moshe is the president of the Israeli forum of reflexology. He is a reflexologist, doula, childbirth educator and maternity reflexology trainer. A doula (pronounced ‘doola’) is a Greek word meaning ‘woman servant or caregiver’, which now refers to an experienced practitioner who offers emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth.1 We were excited to be attending this conference, and were pleased to be able to offer support to our colleague, Lyndall Mollatt, who was travelling to Israel from Australia to speak and facilitate one of the workshops on the third day. Lyndall, Jenni and I are all midwives and reflexologists, who are authentic trainers of Susanne Enzer’s Maternity Reflexology courses worldwide. The conference was beautifully orchestrated. Moshe advertised all across the globe, and approximately 120 delegates came from all over, including Denmark, Spain, Holland, Greece, Australia, Hungary, Slovenia, Israel and UK. There were 10 attendants from England and Scotland, which, even with my poor arithmetic, is around 10 per cent of the audience and made us proud. The conference ran from Sunday to Tuesday, with Saturday being Israeli Sabbath and holiday. We all arrived for the first day and were greeted with name badges stating our name, nationality, and individual
homeland flag. Conference manuals were filled with the timetable, a list of planned speakers, and a summary of each seminar. We also received headphones for translation, as the conference was in Hebrew, and the translators were excellent to the point of being almost instant with their translation. There were only a couple of times where we were ‘lost in translation’, which was when the delegates asked questions without the microphone so that the translator could not hear the question. My most memorable moment of the translators was when one was translating for a speaker who was talking about being a doula at a stillbirth (which is when the baby has died in the womb prior to birth). This was naturally very emotional and as the translator was repeating the words of the speaker, she was brought to tears by the words she was translating to us. The whole conference membership couldn’t help but join her in shedding tears. Moshe opened the conference, and the conference began very patriotically with the Israeli National Anthem, while the audience stood to mark respect for the vision that was now a reality for Moshe.
During the two-day conference, the speakers worked through the various stages of maternity reflexology: • Reflexology for preconception and sub-fertility • Reflexology for pregnancy • Reflexology for labour • Reflexology for puerperium • Reflexology and the newborn The programme had a good systematic approach and kept the delegate informed as they travelled through the wonders of fertility, pregnancy and birthing. Generally, the lectures included a demonstration via a camera that was projected onto the conference screen, which helped highlight areas of therapy that each individual lecturer had found effective in their sphere of expertise. This was an effective way to reinforce learning, as often visual learning can be the most powerful.2 Reflexology for preconception and sub-fertility There were three main speakers on this subject who looked at reflexology for pre-conception and sub- fertility, as well as incorporating many other therapies into their discussions: Shirley Tidhar from Israel, Frank Berger from Denmark, Nili Noam from Israel, and Aniko Kotroczo from Hungary (was scheduled but did not present) Shirley Tidhar, discussed In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and hormonal influences. Frank Berger provided an explanation of the energies of the five elements in the Taoist philosophy, which looks at the effects of the seasons and the elements, such as fire, earth, metal, water and wood, upon fertility. The energy cycles show us how our energies operate through the different phases of our life and during the different seasons. Nili Noam talked about the mind/body connection and discussed the chakra systems,3 which consider the mind and body as one, and described how the effects of chakra blockages can reflect on the body, and of course, the feet. Aniko Kotroczo, who looks at nutritional effects upon fertility such as vitamins and diet, was illustrated in the conference manual. Reflexology for pregnancy There were five excellent speakers for the reflexology and pregnancy part of the conference: Hanna Almagor from Israel, Moshe Kruchik from Israel, Irit Landau from Israel, Teresa Huelga from Spain, and Lyndall Mollatt from Australia. Hanna Almagor, a nurse, reflexologist and educator, discussed various topics including: the hormonal responses of the body during pregnancy; massive changes that may lead to the minor disorders of pregnancy; and the safety of using reflexology in the first trimester of pregnancy. We know the last topic is controversial, and Hanna projected a lot of her personal thoughts and observations into her discussion, which appeared to make it ‘safe’. I, however, think we must work with research-based evidence, not personal. Although Hanna encouraged reflexologists to work with ease within the first trimester, for UK reflexologists, I would encourage you check with your insurance company before working on pregnant clients in the first trimester. This may depend on whether you have undergone maternity reflexology training. Moshe’s presentation spanned the nine months of pregnancy and beyond. He has developed, and sells, good visual aids on pregnancy, the three trimesters, and many of the pregnancy disorders. Many disorders are very normal and should be treated as such, but there are a few pregnancy conditions that can be life-threatening to mother and baby, and reflexologists need to be aware of these. Moshe has written books4 on the subject and is obviously very passionate about his work.
Irit Landau, a reflexologist and doula who specialises in Bach flower remedies, talked well about the pain/fear/adrenaline production cycle, and how these destructive elements can have massive effects on labouring/birthing women. This was a very interesting seminar and she returned the following day for a workshop. The first day ended with a surprise: a lovely Spanish midwife called Teresa Huelga, who teaches belly dancing to women she works with, performing a lovely dance that had us all mesmerised. Theresa explained that belly dancing is a great exercise that encourages dancers to dissociate their body parts, allowing fluidity and unlocking. As a physical exercise, it improves circulation, helps correct bad postural habits, protects the lumbar posture, and is good for relieving tension. Pregnant women who rock their baby with hip movements are often able to feel the strongest maternal energies within. All attendants were encouraged to stand and ‘swivel our hips’, copying the moves, which effectively helped to move the body fluid that had accumulated while sitting during the conference all day! After finishing the first day, Teresa Huelga, who completed her midwifery training in Ireland, started the conference on the second day and was one of my favourite speakers. This young midwife’s presentation, ‘An experience in Malawi’, involved a powerful pictorial on Africa, maternity and reflexology. Explaining how she spent two weeks in Malawi working alongside an English midwife, Teresa depicted a lovely account of women having babies in Africa. She talked about the lack of facilities and provisions, and how birth and death are normal parts of the midwife’s work, before going on to talk about how she introduced reflexology to birthing women. I gained a lovely taste of the African life, which made me want to gather my Pinnards5 and hands, and hot foot out there. Lyndall Mollart, a practising midwife and maternity reflexology trainer in Australia, worked alongside Susanne Enzer when she was developing The Maternity Reflexology training in Australia,6 and teaches midwives and reflexologists in Australia and Japan. Lyndall discussed pregnancy oedema, ‘issues in the tissues’, referencing her published single blind randomised controlled trial on foot oedema in late pregnancy in a metaphysical perspective. She describes the non-randomised group, and how there was a significant decrease in both ankle measurements after receiving lymphatic drainage therapy.7 8 Reflexology in birthing Sivan Ofiri, an Israeli doula and birth educator, gave a very emotionally provoking seminar on attending a stillbirth, which I mentioned earlier when I discussed the translation service. For many, this would have been the first insight in the sadder part of the maternity field, which, although Sivan shared in a very calm, serene way, brought the whole audience - men included - to tears. Sivan is setting up a wonderful project in Israel to have a register of doulas who will volunteer to support the births of those devastated couples that have had to experience sudden term