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Lisa Barnwell, Expert Maternity Aromatherapist and Reflexologist, and Founder of Me & My Baby Therapy Clinic.Yoga. Pilates, answers your questions . . .

I am 6 months pregnant and really struggling to juggle a highly stressful job in the City with making sure I look after myself and my unborn baby. I have heard that different treatments like reflexology and aromatherapy might help but don’t know how beneficial or safe they are during pregnancy?

Pregnancy places huge demands on the body and mind. Effectively, you now have two jobs. As you are probably finding in your daily working life, the rational side of your brain is in overdrive and the pressure to perform is constant even though your energy levels may not be. During the 2nd trimester, energy levels are often good but as you move into the 3rd, the physical and emotional changes increase significantly as you are preparing for the birth. Scheduling and committing to time out specifically to address the lifestyle changes and challenges you are heading towards can help you feel calmer and more in control as suppressing your fluctuating hormones can be exhausting. Yoga and Pilates are often highly recommended to help you become “birth fit” but they require some effort.

Many women stop having treatments during their pregnancy due to fears that it may “harm” their baby but there is both empirical and anecdotal evidence that massage, reflexology and aromatherapy, when delivered by a trained professional, can be beneficial and worthwhile to you both.

Pregnancy Massage?

Massage plays an invaluable role in helping to maintain good health and well-being, relieving anxiety, tension and stress. It helps your breathing, circulation and muscle tone and provides a sense of calm often like no other therapy – all completely safe and effective for you and your developing baby!

Receiving a treatment of massage or reflexology gives you an opportunity to “let go”. A good therapist will provide confidential, non-judgmental emotional support – a shoulder to cry on, a person to express your fears to, or someone to talk through the practical issues you are juggling – as well as unknotting your shoulders, improving your circulation, boosting your immune system and relieving your back pain.

The relaxing hormones that a mother-to-be produces when she receives a massage, directly pass across the placenta, helping the baby to feel calmer and more relaxed. It is now believed this can promote the growth of your baby’s brain in a calmer form, setting up pathways to enable him or her to deal with stress more effectively.


Reflexology works on the premise that points in the foot relate to corresponding parts of the body and by stimulating a gentle pressure to specific points on the feet, the body releases tension throughout the body. Tender spots can be felt but generally the treatment is deeply calming. It can be effective when it is difficult to work on specific parts of the body due to inflammation for instance: frozen shoulder, sciatica, back, neck or hip pain. It is often found to relieve headaches/migraines and aid sleep, helping you “juggle” more effectively.

In early pregnancy, reflexology can help with fatigue, morning sickness and general stress and tension. Reflexology treatments are also often used to help conception occur, or even at post-due date to help avoid a medical induction.


Aromatherapy is the art of using pure essential oils derived from flowers and plants. When combined in a massage (after being diluted in a “carrier oil” – possibly sweet almond, avocado, apricot or jojoba) the oils are absorbed into your skin and therefore into your bloodstream affecting your limbic (emotional) system and your physical state. Oils can soothe digestion, help with heartburn and relieve nausea as well as help you feel more alert, focused or balanced. Many oils can be safely used throughout pregnancy although their application is more diluted and certain oils will be avoided at different stages. It is important to see a trained professional but the benefits of adding aromatherapy to a pregnancy massage are that mind, body and soul feel invigorated and restored.

It may also be interesting to note that after birth (whether natural or Caesarean) all the above treatments can support recovery, relieve fatigue, ease muscular aches and tension and restore joint movement. They are also safe and suitable when breastfeeding.

Investing an hour every two or three weeks at the current time, increasing to weekly for the last 4-6 weeks will help you cope more effectively. While the more time you are able to take out the better, you will see the benefits even from one session. Your life definitely doesn’t generally stop during your pregnancy so why stop looking after yourself?

Me & My Baby is London’s first and only dedicated therapy clinic and exercise studio specifically for mums, bumps and babies. Dads are welcome too!

Founder and Director, Lisa Barnwell is qualified in Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage, Aromatherapy, Acupressure in Pregnancy and Labour, Maternity Reflexology, BabyReflex and Baby Massage. She is a member of the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (which is in turn a member of the Aromatherapy Consortium) and the Association of Reflexologists and has focused her practice on pregnancy and fertility issues since 2001.

Her clinic and Signature Pregnancy Massage have recently been chosen as the clinic and treatment of choice by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for their private maternity clients.

For more information, contact Me & My Baby Therapy Clinic on 020 7751 4170 or go to

Contact Eds Up: [email protected] or Lisa: [email protected] if you have any issues that you would like us to cover or that you would like Lisa’s assistance with. You can also contact Lisa if you would like information on corporate packages.