Whether you are in your 20s, 30s, or even your 40s every woman who wants a baby would like to conceive naturally. Most of us don’t even think about it until we try to start a family. So, to help and support you during this time, I have put together some helpful tips including how reflexology can help you and what you need to know when planning your family.
I have also included some research at the bottom of this article outlining the benefits of Reflexology for Fertility.
First off, you need to know if you are ovulating? Whether your cycle is regular or not, it is very important to track your cycle. The first day of your period, is the first day of your cycle. Ovulation varies from woman to woman, so you need to track your own cycle in detail.
There are some very distinctive clues that will give you a pattern to when you are ovulating
BASAL BODY TEMPERATURE
- Your body temperature fluctuates with the onset of ovulation, so if you are tracking your basal body temperature, you will find a spike in temperature as ovulation occurs.
- Basal body temperature (BBT) is your temperature when you first wake up in the morning, or after at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep. To record your BBT, you need to use a basal thermometer. This has a finer scale than a normal thermometer and lets you record tiny changes in your body temperature. Basal thermometers are inexpensive and easily available at your local pharmacy in Limerick.
- To use a basal thermometer, you need to take your temperature before you get out of bed. Try to take your temperature at the same time each morning, and before you have anything to eat, drink, sex or going to the bathroom.
- It can take two to three cycles to work out a clear pattern.
A note of caution – Remember that if you are ill, or forget to take your temperature immediately on waking, any pattern you find may be inaccurate. Taking pain killers with paracetemol will also reduce your temperature whilst alcohol can increase your temperature.
When you ovulate, hormonal changes trigger a slight rise in your BBT, which lasts at least until your next period. You’ll probably notice your temperature spiking on other days but, unless it stays that way for at least three days in a row, you’re probably not ovulating. You’re looking for a temperature rise compared with the previous six days of about 0.2 degrees C.
You are most fertile on the day of the temperature spike and on the few days before. So, the first month or two of charting your temperature will only tell you when you’ve already ovulated. But you’ll be able to see whether there is a pattern.
If there is a pattern, you’ll be able to predict your most fertile days the next time around and work out the best days to have sex. You have a window of 4-6 days but try narrow this down to the 2 days you know you will be ovulating. Also, it’s important to know that sperm can live up to between 5 and7 days so do not panic if you miss a day of sexual intercourse. If you do become pregnant, your temperature will stay elevated. If it remains elevated for 18 days or more, this can be an early sign that you are pregnant. To know for sure, you’ll need to do a pregnancy test.
Cervical mucus (CM) is one of many types of vaginal discharge. The type of mucus produced by your body provides clues to your fertility. As your hormone levels change during your period, the amount, texture, and colour of your cervical mucus also changes.Keeping track of the changes can help you to work out when you’re most fertile. Some women check their mucus by looking at the toilet paper after they wipe. Others need to collect some mucus using their finger. You can do this by inserting a clean index finger or middle finger into your vagina and reaching toward your cervix. You can then examine the liquid on your finger.Here’s what you can expect throughout your cycle:
- During your period, you’ll discharge menstrual blood
- Once your period is over, your CM may be dry for several days, or you may have cloudy-coloured CM that’s roughly the consistency of sticky rice. You’re not very likely to conceive on any of these days.
- You’ll then notice that your CM becomes clear and slippery. This increases in volume, becoming more like raw egg white in colour and consistency as you enter your fertile window. Your body is making this fertile, slippery mucus to make it easier for sperm to travel to your egg.
- About three days after the fertile mucus starts, clear mucus strings may appear. This mucus can be stretched between your fingers.
- In the next day or two, your CM becomes even wetter and more slippery. As it becomes more watery, you may feel noticeably wet in your underwear. You are most fertile when your CM reaches a peak of wetness and slipperiness
- After the peak day, your CM becomes dry or cloudy and sticky. Two or more consecutive days of this sort of CM is usually a sign that you’ve passed your fertile window.
- Your CM will probably continue to be dry, cloudy or sticky until your period, though you may still notice wet mucus again just before your period starts.
- If you have conceived, you may have some spotting or a very light period instead of your normal period. The average fertile window is about six days and the peak in wet slippery mucus usually coincides with the day before, or the day of, ovulation. Fertile mucus is due to the increase in oestrogen levels that accompanies ovulation.
- To track your CM, try the two-day method to work out your most fertile days. This involves checking every day to see if you’ve got fertile mucus or not.
After midday, or before you go to bed, ask yourself if you noticed any mucus today, and if you noticed any mucus yesterday. If the answer to both questions is “yes”, you may be in your fertile window. If the answer to both questions is “no”, it’s unlikely that you’re in your fertile window.
- If your menstrual cycle is short, your fertile mucus may start in the days immediately following your period. If your menstrual cycle is long, you’re likely to have more days of dry or cloudy, sticky-rice mucus before fertile mucus appears.
NATURAL AND MEDICAL INTERVENTION
If you have any concerns, you and your partner should meet with a gynaecologist or fertility specialist. If you have a diagnosed issue such as polycystic ovaries or endometriosis this is a must from the off. Your consultant will start with a detailed examination including bloods to check hormone levels and possibly further investigation to check the ovaries, fallopian tubes and womb. However, it will be helpful if you have tracked your cycle for a few months and provide the consultant or therapist with this information.
If you chart your BBT and keep track of your CM, you should get a more reliable picture of your cycle than if you use one method alone.
Even so, you don’t have to do all these things to get pregnant. Fertility guidance recommends having sex two to three times a week throughout your cycle is the best way to help you conceive. There’s no evidence that charting your temperature improves your chances of getting pregnant naturally. Remember, sperm can live up to 5 days so don’t panic if you can’t have sex regularly.
HOW CAN REFLEXOLOGY HELP WITH FERTILITY?
I work frequently with woman to help with low fertility. Complementary therapies and Reflexology are becoming more widely known as solutions to low fertility levels. If there is a physical problem such as a disorder of the reproductive system, the couple should always follow the advice of their gynaecologist. However, where there are concerns over medical intervention e.g. prolonged exposure to elevated levels of hormones and/or there is no physical concern identified by the medical profession Reflexology, often in conjunction with lifestyle changes, offers a safe and natural approach. Reflexology by encouraging deep relaxation can alleviate stress and tension both physically and emotionally. This together with improvements in diet and lifestyle (where relevant) has the potential to increase fertility levels.
If you are going through IUI or IVF, reflexology is recommended now by many Fertility Clinics. I have been working with many women here in my Limerick Clinic and see the benefits first hand.
REFLEXOLOGY & INFERTILITY Some Danish Reflexologists (Krogstad & Frandsen, 2004) believe that a couple could view low fertility/infertility as a ‘friend’ as it ‘often provides the information that the body of the woman or the man is not in a suitable condition, physically or mentally, to become pregnant, and thus offers a chance for change’.
Some work presented on the positive impact of Reflexology on infertility is presented below:
- Has Reflexology an Effect on Infertility? (Ericksen 1996) To determine the effect of reflexology on infertility 108 women under 35 years with no previous children, and that had attempted to become pregnant for more than two years were selected 61 applicants. The 61 women were given sixteen 45-minute reflexology treatments over a 7-8 month period. Treatments were given 2 times a week for 4 weeks, then 2 treatments before ovulation. Nine women (15%) became pregnant within six months after starting treatment. Of two thirds of the women who had menstruation problems 77% experienced an appreciable improvement, with the majority totally getting rid of the problems. Three quarters of all the women reported improvements in other ailments such as: muscle tensions, psychic imbalances, indigestion, poor circulation and general imbalance.
- Jane Holt a practicing Reflexologist has ‘published’ successful outcomes of pregnancies using Reflexology on the Internet. A table presented on the web is detailed below – reference Appendix I. Jane Holt presented no information on the frequency or duration of sessions.
- Mind, Body Sole Site – suggests a treatment plan of 6-10 one-hour sessions across an 8-12-week period.
REFLEXOLOGY & INFERTILITY CASE STUDIES Kunz & Kunz at a recent seminar (June 2006) suggested that frequency; duration and strength of signal were important factors in successful Reflexology treatments. While Reflexology is not a diagnostic treatment Kunz & Kunz (2000) indicate some stress cues, which could indicate problems with certain areas of the body. Reference Appendix II for some cues related to reproductive disorders.
As part of the Reflexology accreditation 60 hours case studies must be submitted. Of the case studies undertaken two clients are trying to start a pregnancy. At the time of completion of the essay the ten sessions were not complete, however it is intended to take the ten sessions to completion.
In treating infertility in Reflexology special attention should be paid to the following reflex points:
Pituitary as this is the master gland and produces many of the hormones regulating the menstrual cycle
- Hypothalamus as it regulates the Pituitary hormone production
- Thyroid as over/under active thyroid function can impact fertility
- Solar plexus particularly if the client is stressed
- Reproductive organs; Ovary/testicles stimulates the gland to produce sex cells and hormones o Fallopian tubes/Vas Deferens: stimulate the points to release any blockages that may exist o Uterus/Prostate gland: to increase the blood circulation and promote normal functioning
- At the end of the session chakra balancing could be completed
- In addition, the following aspects of the clients’ life should be examined to determine if they are conducive to a healthy body and mind
- Diet (for correct levels of minerals, vitamins; consumption of food pyramid groups etc)
- Lifestyle (time for relaxation, stress – can they learn to manage it, exercise etc)
- Time for self – in some case this may be the treatment itself
Since treatments first commenced, Client A has felt that the tension & stress are gone and her PMT has improved. She believes that the Reflexology has worked well in helping to re-establish a homeostasis within her body and while still obtaining Reflexology treatments is continuing to work on nutritional changes and her energy levels.
For Client B this case study has been the clients’ first exposure to Reflexology and she really enjoys it, as it allows her to take an hour in the week for herself. To date she has enjoyed increased energy levels after the treatments. Client B suffers a great deal from stress and this condition will be focused upon in further Reflexology sessions.