Getting Ankle Massage During Pregnancy

I recently came across an interesting question. Is it OK to have your ankles massaged while pregnant? I had heard from a few others mother’s that this was not something that should be done, but I couldn’t come up with any well founded reason why a woman’s ankles would endanger a healthy pregnancy. I decided to do a little research.

While it is quite easy to come across countless articles, blogs, and posts that decry ankle massage as dangerous, it is significantly more difficult to come across any source for such claims. The most concrete claim out there originates from traditional Chinese medicine meridian theory. However, once I began investigate this claim, it, too, does not hold up against scrutiny. So the question remained for me, is it safe to get your ankles massaged while pregnant?

I came across this website from a local massage therapist in Hawaii that claims ankle massage is completely safe. And this clinic seems to be a very knowledgable source for contraindications for massage. I personally know several people who see therapists at this clinic and they all trust the therapists and owner a lot. If he stands by the idea that ankle massage is safe, I would tend to believe him. He also links to another blog in his article from a woman who is a nurse, massage therapist, and doula who does a pretty good job at fully debunking this idea.

Her article is in depth and she makes a solid argument as to why the origins of the idea are based on fears rather than facts. As she notes, it is widely believed that pregnancy and labor are delicate and dangerous “conditions” for women to be in. She notes how this is actually just not true and that pregnancy, labor, and birth are signs of human resiliency and that many things that we used to tell women to do during pregnancy (light work, no lifting, etc) have turned out to have no solid evidence to support them.

She goes on to outline that it is commonly believed that reflexology points around the ankle will induce labor. However, this is a misunderstanding of the way in which reflexology is supposed to work. Reflexology points are supposed to increase the health and functionality of the areas that are pressed. While it is true that the uterus has reflexology points around the ankle, pressing these points will only make the uterus more healthy and function better, if anything.

So until someone else can provide a solid argument against why we shouldn’t be getting our ankles massaged while pregnant, I feel pretty confident to say that this common bit of wisdom is in fact a myth. Let me know if you find anything with solid reasoning to suggest otherwise. I’d be interested to hear about it.


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Homebirth of my Third Daughter, Etta

Yesterday we had our third natural birth in the comfort of our home. My first daughter, Ellen was born at a free-standing birth center in California with the assistance of midwives and my second daughter Jane was born at home and my midwife didn’t make it in time (see story here)

At 1:30am on June 21st (summer solstice), I started having regular contractions and Etta Mae decided that she wanted to make her way into the world. Because of my previous birth where my midwife did not make it in time, I was cautious to call my midwives and mother sooner rather than later.

At approximately 3:30am, my midwife Stephanie came over and my mother shortly followed to care for my two little girls (ages 2 1/2 and almost 4), should they wake up during labor. My husband Peter had already set up our birthing tub and was filling it with hot water halfway that would be cool enough if we timed it right (we could always add more cool or hot water later) and we were doing our best to rest. My midwife Stephanie had later told me that when she came that morning, she was not convinced that I was in active labor but I was dialated 4cm. I was up and about and chatty (I’m a marriage and family therapist by profession so it’s my job to talk). Though the contractions were quite regular, (3-10 minutes apart) the intensity was not increasing. I walked around my house, made tea, ate food, laid in my bed and tried to rest, checked out Pinterest, and talked to my husband and Stephanie. Stephanie would come in every so often and check my blood pressure and the baby’s heartbeat but other than that hung out downstairs and let me be to labor. At some point Stephanie asked if I’d like to be checked for progress and I measured 6cm dilated.

At 6am, my girls woke up and my mom and husband went through their routine of making them breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc…I was again, left mostly alone to labor upstairs while the house was filling up downstairs with another nurse Karen added to the mix. My bladder and colon emptied (sorry but i think this helped labor along) and after frequent trips to the bathroom (every 5-10 minutes) I decided to get into the shower. In the shower, contractions got closer together and more intense and I asked my husband to stay in our bedroom at this point. Stephanie checked the baby’s heartbeat while I was in the shower and said that she must like it in there (heartbeat had sped up) and the hot water helped with pain. After I got out, I changed my clothes and walked around my bedroom some more. At this point there was activity downstairs of getting my girls ready to go to tumbling class. They would pop in to say hello, and were curious about the birth tub setup.

While my husband was in the room I had one contraction where I felt the shocking pain of needing to push and said “you better get the tub filled up NOW”. He had already been doing it while I didn’t notice (guess that’s how in the zone I was at this point). I also felt a need to rush my kids and mom out of the house. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this until that day. I guess in the back of my head, I imagined a moment of girls looking on and kumbaya family-birth-love but in the moment I wanted the least amount of distraction possible so I could concentrate. Luckily, this concept was not rigid and I didn’t feel like I was losing out on any “moment” at all. As they were getting ready to leave, I heard the activity downstairs and wished they would hurry up. I spent some time in the bathroom on the toilet again and decided it was tub time now or never (I get to the point where I fear I can’t physically step in anymore if I wait any longer). Peter escorted me out of the bathroom to our guest room where the tub was full and warm. I got in and felt instant relief quickly followed by a large contraction that had me gripping the side handlebars (birth tubs have bars to hold onto).

After that, although my anxiety was high about getting the girls out if the house, I swam around a bit and thought about mermaids :) Peter was standing in the hall between one or two more strong contractions until I yelled “I need to push NOW” followed by “get the midwives and get them (mom and kids) OUT OF HERE”. He yelled downstairs “she’s pushing” and Stephanie and Karen ran up and my mom knew it was time to get the kids out of the door even though it was 45 minutes early. When they got there I was not sure that I wanted to do it. The tub translation seemed too quick. I only got to enjoy the water for a few minutes. Could the baby really be coming? Do I really need to push? This turned into an internal fight as I sat with my legs crossed thinking “I’m not ready”. They calmly asked me to let the baby come out if she needs to and I gave in. I had no choice because it turned into one enormous contraction with no stopping in between. I changed positions and allowed her to come. I bore down and went with it, struggling through immense pain of never-ending contraction and pushing. I think I said “I can’t do this” and some profanities under my breath and felt her head. Her head was out in on in one big push. I reached down, cupped her head and pushed more. Her body came out and I lifted her out of the water.

Shock and relief followed. “Did that really just happen? It was so quick! Is she okay? Is the cord wrapped around or anything? Is she breathing? She’s kind of blue.” They handed us some towels, we wrapped her up and then I moved to the seat in the tub. I checked her out, she started to turn pink and was covered in cheesy vernix. She didn’t cry, just took some regular, mucky, watery breaths and opened her eyes. She made slight sounds and I just held her tightly and stared. Daddy and the nurse midwives gushed about how perfect she was and healthy and any fear dissipated. I felt blissful. It’s over. My baby is here. She’s healthy and beautiful. Eventually I checked that she had all her fingers and toes and that she was actually a girl (we had one ultrasound at 17 weeks where they were pretty sure). I sat in the warm tub with her for a while before I felt the need to “do something” (my personality).

I asked if I should try to get the placenta out and my providers we’re casual about it “if you think you’re ready, sure”. So we checked her cord which had stopped pulsing a while ago and looked like she had gotten everything she needed from it and they asked if Peter would like to cut it. They clamped the cord with me still holding her in the tub and Peter cut it. They then got her a new, dry towel and asked if it was okay to hand her to her daddy. I was ready to be ALL done and also deliver the placenta. The placenta was more firmly attached than my previous two and they asked me to make some deep belly coughs which seemed to help. They asked if I’d rather get out of the tub and I declined. Water for me is THE BEST pain management and I was not willing to risk any more pain that I didn’t have to. So after some coaxing and commitment to pushing again, the placenta was delivered and placed in a bag and placed into a large bowl. It was wrapped up and sent downstairs to the refrigerator (my husband is dehydrating and encapsulating it today, yeah he’s pretty awesome).

I was toweled off, transferred to the bed, and baby Etta was handed back to me. They checked me out and everything looked great. One tiny stitch was needed. Stephanie did this while I held the baby. They let us be for a while and started the clean-up. Eventually, they came back in to fill out birth certificate paperwork and measure and weigh the baby. Etta Mae Schillinger was 21 inches long and weighed 7.1 lbs. She was born at 9:19 am on June 21st, 2013, the summer solstice. Peter made me whole wheat blueberry pancakes and I ate them while they were measuring my baby. She is calm, pink, and has light hair and blue eyes. She latched on right away after my breakfast and is a nursing champ. Her big sisters came home from their tumbling class with grandma to meet her. We are in love.


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Institute of Medicine’s Birth Settings Webcast

Come watch now as they discuss birth settings! You can also follow on Twitter: #IOMBirth

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The WHO and Nestle

What you can do:

News Release November 16, 2012

Outrage sparks Twitter battle between UN health watchdogs WHO, PAHO
Moms, front line breastfeeding workers furious with Pan American Health Organization for accepting $150,000 from Nestlé

Two global health care titans are duking it out on Twitter over the ethics of accepting money from food industry giants to fight non-communicable disease.

This comes after moms and front line health care workers vented their fury at the Pan American Health Office – the regional representative in the Americas for the World Health Organization – over $150,000 received from Nestlé.

This is one of several exchanges between WHO and PAHO/WHO on Twitter Nov 14 and 15th.

After fighting industry for years to uphold an international code to protect moms and babies from predatory marketing, there was outrage when it was learned PAHO accepted $150,000 from Nestlé. This is a direct violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, known as the “WHO Code”, and moms and breastfeeding support workers are furious.

“No matter how PAHO-WHO spins it, accepting cash handouts from Nestle is an endorsement of their products, and a green light to Nestle to continue to harm the health of children by violating the WHO Code,” says Dr. Jennie Bever Babendure, a breastfeeding researcher and mother of two who wrote a blog post triggering the outcry on social media. “We’re fighting this battle while nursing our babies, picking up our kids from school and doing our jobs. It is our health and the health of our children the world over that PAHO-WHO is selling to the highest bidder.”

While the health protection titans hash it out with careful language, moms and the lactation consultants who help them say it’s simple. PAHO must give the money back.

Marsha Walker, executive director of the US-based National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy, said in an article on the issue: “The wolf in sheep’s clothing comes bearing money and is rewarded for its poor corporate behavior by aligning itself with the good name of respected health agencies.”

Our newly-formed group, Friends of the WHO Code is asking other organizations to join our effort and pressure the WHO and PAHO-WHO to reexamine this and other relationships and how they impact global public health. We can be reached at

- 30 –

Contact: Dr. Jennie Bever Babendure

Link to Jennie Bever Babendure’s blog post:
Link to Marsha Walker’s article:

Media are invited to contact Amber Rhoton McCann, IBCLC, for more details on the social media response to this issue, and Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC, Executive Director, National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA), for more information about the WHO Code. Background on issue is attached.

On October 19, 2012 Reuters broke the story that the Pan American Health Office (PAHO-WHO) of the World Health Organization (WHO) had accepted $150,000 from Nestle. In addition to what most know as a chocolate company, Nestle is a multibillion dollar corporation in direct conflict with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the WHO Code). Due to the aggressive marketing of their infant feeding products in the 3rd world, Nestle has been the subject of an international boycott for the past 35 years.

Based on the aggressive and predatory tactics of companies such as Nestlé, in 1981 the World Health Organization and UNICEF, supported by 118 countries[1], brought in the WHO Code to protect vulnerable children who may suffer poor health and even death due to lack of breastfeeding, especially in places without access to clean water and proper sanitation. This public endorsement of the importance of breastfeeding was a critical step for public health worldwide, and has since guided legislation in 103 of countries to enforce all or part of the WHO Code. Over 20 other countries adopted the code on a voluntary basis[2].

Unfortunately in the US and many other countries, a lack of legislative enforcement of the WHO Code has resulted in over 30 years of rampant violations. From the “gift” bag at the hospital to delivery of formula samples on mothers’ doorsteps, infant formula manufacturers have continued to violate the WHO Code, and negatively impact breastfeeding. These violations have intensified in recent years as corporations have begun to infiltrate social media to market their products directly to new mothers. In the fight against these aggressive tactics, the support of the WHO through the WHO Code has been the main source of strength for advocates worldwide. By partnering with Nestlé, PAHO-WHO has endorsed one of the worst violators it initially set out to regulate. This relationship serves as a symbol to other organizations that the WHO Code has no meaning, sending a message to other companies that such marketing tactics will be overlooked.

The gravity of this action has sparked worldwide outrage and demand for the WHO to reexamine their relationship with Nestle and return the $150,000. This action is such a breach of trust between the WHO and the people it protects that it has united a global front of breastfeeding advocates, public health professionals, mothers and fathers to stand up to organizations that violate the WHO Code, including PAHO-WHO itself. In order for the WHO Code to maintain its integrity, PAHO-WHO must return the funds, as a monetary relationship with Nestlé symbolizes a nail in the coffin of the cause and gives a green light to code violators that the WHO Code has no meaning.

[1] WHO, International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, (Introduction, p. 5)

[2] UNICEF, National Implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (April 2011)

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Breastfeeding is Bipartisan

The US Breastfeeding Committee is conducting a campaign to get the candidates talking about the benefits of breastfeeding for families, the community and more.  They have it neatly arranged and easily managed so that all you have to do is click on your state and tweet away. Not on twitter?  You can still contact your candidates and talk about these points about breastfeeding.

What are you waiting for – go tweet! (You can follow them at @USBreastfeeding or the hashtag #BreastfeedingisBipartisan.) Birth Activist is on Twitter: @BirthActivist

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Report Nursing in Public Incidents

Best for Babes has a hotline now open to report incidents about harassment of moms nursing in public: 855-NIP-FREE (1-855-647-3733)

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Disappointed in Mixed Messages

There is a new marketing campaign for safer car seat use in the US. I’m so glad that we have this type of information going out to parents, because it’s honestly a huge problem. (About 80% of parents misuse their car seats.) My problem is not with the campaign, but with one of the ads used in the campaign, seen above. Given all the money and time that goes into the government’s breastfeeding campaigns, I’d love to see them have a breastfeeding in all policies approach and be sure to exclude bottles from gratuitous use. If this were a campaign about how to properly bottle feed, I’d have zero complaints. But using a baby bottle as a simple graphical design undermines breastfeeding. The contact information that they have listed is as follows:

“For additional child safety campaign information, contact NHTSA @ 202-366-3587 or

Though I’d also like to say that perhaps we also need to ask the Ad Council to stop using baby bottles to represent all things baby.

To contact the AdCouncil @ 800-933-7727 or


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Handy Tips to Remember the Ten Steps to Baby Friendly

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Have you seen the new Luvs Commercial?

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Are you voting?

Take a minute to check out this campaign by the good folks at Our Bodies, Ourselves.

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