Q: What is reflexology, and is it safe during pregnancy?
A: Reflexology is a form of massage practiced on areas of the hands and feet. The idea behind the practice is that pressing specific energy points can stimulate organs and help boost energy flow. Opinions vary on whether reflexology is helpful during pregnancy. "As far as I know, there is no potential pregnancy benefit or risk," says Peter Bernstein, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
Many midwives and doulas disagree, however. "During pregnancy, reflexology can be very helpful to women who have morning sickness or heartburn," says Jada Shapiro, a birth doula and co-founder of Birth Day Presence, a birth and postpartum doula service in the New York City area. "Later on, it can be used during labor to help stimulate contractions." Because reflexology can bring on uterine contractions, it's very important to find a therapist who is specifically trained in treating pregnant women. "If nothing else, the massage aspect is extremely relaxing, and that's useful at any point during pregnancy," adds Shapiro.