Maternity Reflexology as a therapy has been discussed for many years. Unfortunately, many of the stigmas that have hung over it are due mostly to a lack of knowledge of what reflexology is along with a lack of understanding about the potential benefits or alleged damages that may result.
For this reason, we at the Israeli Forum of Reflexology decided it was time to join the leading voices on the international stage to talk about our experiences, discuss our concerns, display our case studies, and get to know each other, with the intention of dispelling the darkness that unreasonably hovers over our practice.
We met for the First International Congress in Maternity Reflexology, which took place in the magnificent auditorium of Beit Hel HaAvir (the Air Force house) in Herzliya, Israel, between 11 and 13 October 2009.
It was a fabulous conference. Our excitement regarding the results of this event does not stem from our pride but from all of the positive feedback received by the end of the conference. After a very difficult year of work, we could finally enjoy three days of intense learning, fellowship, and cooperation.
140 professionals from 14 countries gathered in Israel these three days to enjoy what was a fantastic event. We received delegates from Canada, USA, Greece, Denmark, Spain, Slovenia, Australia, England, Hungary, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, France, and of course Israel.
The conference covered the following topics: reflexology and fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum and newborns, and it ended with a very productive and interesting panel about home birth.
Guest speakers were asked to conduct a practical demonstration on stage to explain the type of treatments they suggested during their presentations. To do this, we arranged a table on stage and a camera capable of capturing and projecting the proceedings on a big screen simultaneously. This allowed all present delegates to assess, evaluate and take note of the different forms of treatments.
For the opening ceremony of the event, we had the presence of Mr Ofir Sela, president of the Israeli Organization for the Recognition of Complementary Therapies, who noted the marked and continuous rise in the acceptance of the Israeli public toward complementary therapies and reflexology. An interesting fact to add: it is estimated that 300,000 reflexology treatments were offered during 2009, which suggests that about 20% of the adult population has received at least one session of reflexology during the year.
Ms. Gila Ronel, Academic Director of Dyada Center for Pregnancy Care and Birth Education in Tel Aviv, blessed both the present acceptance and referred to the large increase in the trend towards future acceptance and preparation for natural childbirth, pointing to active labor as a first alternative nowadays for many couples in Israel.
Ms. Lyndall Mollart, Reflexologist and Midwifery in Australia, was awarded the honor of blessing the delegates and the conference on behalf of foreign lecturers.
As chairman of the Israeli Forum of Reflexology and owner of the initiative for the realization of this congress, the writer of this article, Mauricio (Moshe) Kruchik, addressed the delegates to the conference pointing out the need to lose the fear of maternity reflexology and the need to establish new standards for our professional practice. During the congress itself, the papers from each one of our honorable speakers only confirmed the high level of dedication and professionalism necessary for the safe and successful practice of maternity reflexology.
After these words, and in order to give the final touch to the opening ceremony, our talented colleague Sarig Orly performed Israel's anthem, Hatikva (The Hope) with her flute, which was sung by the 110 Israeli colleagues in the room.
First Day, Sunday 11 October 2009
Shirley Tidhar, Reflexologist and Naturopath from Haifa, Israel, was the person selected to open the conference. Her presentation, entitled “Reflexology Treatment of Female Fertility and Its Benefits Sub Düring an IVF Process” was voted by participants as the best of all the papers. Shirley's practice is focused primarily on fertility reflexology, and she is one of the most recognized reflexologists in Israel in this area with a high success rate.
Shirley gave an overview of the major causes of sub fertility in women and discussed what is offered to couples who use modern medicine to try and conceive, and she emphasized the benefits of using reflexology during the IVF process. She also presented and analyzed some cases that have arisen in her practice and how she has been able to help couples to successfully conceive.
The presentation included the exposure of a friendly and entertaining video on fertilization, which included a very detailed demonstration where Shirley showed us a treatment for the thickening of the uterine lining. This was followed with careful attention by all present and was followed with some very interesting questions.
Frank Berger, Reflexologist from Denmark, delighted the audience with his presentation “Effects of Reflexology in the Treatment of Male and Female Sub Fertility and the Improvement of Sperm Count.” During his presentation, Frank spoke about the adverse factors that negatively affect fertility, providing an interesting approach to treatment from Chinese medicine and Taoism, which cleanse the body of toxins and balance the endocrine system, making an interesting overview of the 12 Chinese meridians and the theory of the five elements. Two days after Frank conducted a successful workshop and informative demonstration, which was voted the best of any offered.
Nili Noam, Reflexologist from Israel, spoke on “The Body-Mind Scope of Reflexology and Its Contribution to the Treatment of Sub Fertility.” In her presentation, Nili made a very interesting review of the influence of emotional factors in the delay or difficulty of conceiving. This paper was accompanied by graphic examples of reading of the feet, noting aspects of the attitudes and human behaviors that probably exert a negative influence on processes of stress at the time of conception.
Hana Almagor, Israel Reflexologist and Nurse with over 35 years of experience, accepted the challenge to talk about the controversial topic of “Reflexology Benefits During the First Trimester of Pregnancy,” and aimed to dispel the old myths. Hana highlighted the various factors and changes which have an apparent negative influence during the first trimester of pregnancy, analyzing its origins and symptoms and making clear that their presence is a normal fact that belongs to the pregnancy process. She spoke about these from a body mind perspective.
Hana demonstrated a technique appropriate for the first trimester, while emphasizing the importance of working on the digestive system and endocrine system, from the heel to the toes.
Sivan Ofiri, Doula and Shiatsu practitioner from Israel, was specially invited to speak at our conference to present her praiseworthy initiative, which the Israeli Forum of Reflexology promised their full support. He paper Stillbirth dealt with the silent drama that happens with so many couples and about which we know very little. Not all births are completed in a happy and healthy manner, leaving many couples uncared. Sivan created an institution of voluntary work. In the corridors after the conference, we saw dozens of participants, emotionally moved and touched deeply by her words, ready to register their names and details at the booth, for which she received an award.
I, Mauricio (Moshe) Kruchik of Israel spoke on the topic, “Reflexology as a Preventative Therapy for Pregnancy - The Reflexology Planner for the 9 Months of Pregnancy and Beyond.” In this paper, I proposed and explained how reflexology can be helpful in pregnancy by analyzing various physiological processes and making an analysis of cause and effect relationships, pointing out that neglected symptoms can aggravate and develop into other symptoms, predisposing the body to create unhealthy conditions. In other words, the Reflexology Planner is a strategy of treatment that aims to avoid the domino effect.
In the second part of the presentation, I presented different case studies which suggested a specific course of treatment to follow, based on the interpretation of various parameters such as current physical condition, medical history, nutritional habits, etc., and taking into account that the physiological processes during the pregnancy have an appropriate time to come. I also emphasized the importance of anticipating and preventing the onset of symptoms.
Irit Landau, Doula and Reflexologist from Israel delivered an interesting lecture titled, “Reflexology and Bach Flower Remedies for Accompanying Pregnancy, Preparation for Birth, Birth and the Postnatal Period.” Irit spoke not only of the importance of not underestimating the emotional swings that occur in pregnancy, but also how to work with a combination of Bach Flowers and reflexology and when should they be applied for the treatment of fear, anguish, anxiety and the need to build self-confidence towards childbirth and motherhood. She very clearly outlined three case histories of deep frustration, bad memories of a previous pregnancy and miscarriage. She outlined how the combined treatment helped them to channel and balance their physical and emotional needs.
Teresa Huelga, Reflexologist and Midwife of Spain played a special role during the conference. Indeed, we decided that something special had to happen by the end of the first day. Teresa is also an expert on belly dancing. The lights went out and to everyone's surprise, she appeared on stage artistically dressed to dance to the beat of a darbuka, performing an exquisite exhibition of this dance, sparking enthusiastic applause and active participation of the public, who stood up to dance and follow Teresa's guidelines and movements. Then Teresa exposed her paper The Advantages that Belly Dancing has for the Preparation of the Pelvic Floor for Childbirth. She finished her exhibition by dancing together with the public, which made all those present to go home the first day full of positive and renewed energy and a wide smile.
Second day: Monday 12 October 2009
Teresa opened the second day of the conference with great attention from the audience after her gorgeous performance of the evening before. And now, she came to offer us another fascinating subject, “Africa, Maternity and Reflexology, an Experience in Malawi.” Through a vibrant display of dozens of photos, Teresa spoke about her experience as a volunteer midwife in Malawi, a poor country in southern Africa where hospital resources are extremely limited, and the struggle for survival is an everyday task. The medical anecdotes were certainly very interesting, but many of us felt a lump in the throat when we felt that for many people in the world life is not something to be taken for granted. Teresa managed to thrill the audience again with her humility, gentleness and simplicity.
Lyndall Mollart, Reflexologist and Midwife of Australia developed the subject “Issues in the Tissues: Unresolved Emotions on the Pregnant Foot,” where she presented the conclusions of a personal observation about the impact of reflexology in the process of edema and its connection with emotions. She also gave a short demonstration of her techniques.
The first presentation on reflexology during labor was performed by Cheryl Cole, Reflexologist and Midwife from England, who spoke about the always controversial topic of homebirth. The title of her presentation was “Homebirth: The Midwife Bag of Tricks. Aiding Women Through Natural Childbirth with the Support of Reflexology.” In her presentation, Cheryl spoke of people's acceptance and resources available for home deliveries in her area, as well as situations where reflexology proved to be successful: little progress in delivery due to anxiety, retained placenta and rupture of membranes without contractions. Cheryl also gave an interesting demonstration of her techniques, imitating the resources available at home.
In my second exhibition at the conference, I spoke on “Effectiveness and Benefits of the Use of Reflexology During Labour: Natural Stimulation in the Most Natural of All Human Processes.” The entire presentation was dedicated to demonstrations of reflexology techniques that are intended to assist and encourage all physiological processes during birth with the purpose of making it more bearable, possibly shorter, and to help create a good birth dynamic. Along with these techniques, I also explained several case studies where reflexology helped to regulate contractions, eliminate liquids and feces, and encourage better breathing. Techniques were also described for reducing reflux and nausea, regulating temperature, and aiding a retained placenta.
Rita Zatelman, Reflexologist and Midwife at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa brought us an excellent presentation with some food for thought: “The Experience of Giving Birth. Where Does It Start and How Does Touch Empower the Process?” In her presentation, Rita gave an interesting point of view, analyzing the act of hospital attention from her position as a professional along with an understanding of the physical and spiritual process of the mother while proposing solutions for her various needs, which can often go unspoken, either because of embarrassment or ignorance. For these situations, Rita emphasized the importance of the pregnant woman meeting and visiting the hospital facilities and staff in order to obtain an idea of the expectations so she can give it personal consideration. In her role as a reflexologist, Rita told us about different situations where the power of touch made the difference between anxiety and self-confidence of the mother and sometimes to her partner.
Undoubtedly, one of the highest points of the conference was the intervention of the Spanish midwife and Reflexologist Mireia Marcos, who gave the presentation, “Reflexology in the Puerperium: a Glimpse of What Reflexology Can Do for the New Mother.” Her presentation was divided into two parts: first, a review of information about the most common conditions such as postpartum hemorrhage, vulvar pain, anxiety and fear, breast pain, and mastitis, and second, she dove into the practical analysis of cases, such as how reflexology proved to be of immense help to treat conditions such as mastitis, haemorrhoids, PPH and post-cesarean section care. Mireia accompanied the nine cases she presented with very illustrative slides and a detailed demonstration of their techniques.
Then it came time for the babies to have their turn. Yossef Irit, Reflexologist and Nurse from Israel, developed the subject, “The Positive Effect of Reflexology in the Treatment of Baby's Ailments,” where she presented in great detail the situations and techniques for working with small children, illustrating her presentation with a video reference.
Three of our guest speakers unfortunately could not present their works to the audience:
Michal Bonstein, Reflexologist and Homebirth Midwife of Israel, president of the Israeli Association of Homebirth Midwives, had to leave the auditorium minutes before her speech due to the urgent call from one of her patients; Harriet Ryan, Reflexologist from Ireland was invited to expose the subject, “Happier Babies after Reflexology in Pregnancy.”, about children of mothers who received reflexology during pregnancy are calmer, happier and more relaxed than other children and Valentina Ostrogliad, traditional Midwife from Kiev, Ukraine, about traditional Ukranian midwifery.
At the end, we enjoyed hosting an interesting panel discussion about homebirth led by Gila Ronel with the participation of Mireia Marcos, Cheryl Cole and Lyndall Mollart. Gila accompanied her words with a beautiful presentation of images of her work as a doula with over 20 year’s experience who has accompanied hundreds of women in Israel during their births.
Although we were very eager to continue, time ran out, but we left the room with the great satisfaction of knowing that our purpose was achieved: to help set the highest standards for the practice of Maternity Reflexology, a safe, pleasant and effective branch of reflexology. Maternity reflexology is reliable, rich in possibilities and possesses innumerable options to help create a world where more couples can overcome fertility issues, women can enjoy pregnancy and birth and children can be born in