Spinning Babies Training
Oh my goodness, what a weekend!!! This training with the wonderful Tammy Ryan was a game-changer for me. I learned so much in just a few hours. Here are the highlights if you’d like to read!
We started the training off with introductions. It was amazing how many people attended and how many different types of birth workers were in the audience: midwives, body workers, doulas, nurses. Tammy introduced herself, sharing how she came to Spinning Babies and how Spinning Babies is saving lives around the world. Really inspirational stuff!
Spinning Babies is a unique approach to “facilitating fetal position,” not manipulating. The main question asked is “Where is Baby?” not “How far dilated is the cervix?” Spinning Babies also takes the traditional focus on gravity (using upright positions, etc.) and movement (walking, dancing, rocking, etc.) and adds balance to the mix. Balance helps both gravity and movement work more effectively.
Tammy started by breaking down some basic pelvic anatomy. We talked about the different ligaments involved in pregnancy and labor and the different joints that hold the pelvis together and allow it to move and expand. But one of the most interesting and useful things we talked about was the importance of flexion in Baby. Flexion is when Baby tucks their chin to their chest so the back of their head fits through the pelvis more easily. Extension is the opposite of this and makes it more difficult for Baby. You can try this for yourself. Make a halo by touching your pointer fingers and thumbs together. Hold it above your head, tuck your chin and bring the halo down. You’ll see how it fits nicely over the top, back part of your head. Now raise your chin a little, and you’ll see that the flat top of the head doesn’t fit nicely. Pretty cool! Actually, according to Spinning Babies, flexion is more important even than Baby's position!
The rest of the class was structured like the progression of labor. Before labor even got started, we talked about what folks can do to set themselves up for a successful birth. Tammy described lifestyle as the first intervention. The way we sit and move every day makes a huge difference in how labor progresses. There are a number of daily stretches (found here) that help stretch and open the pelvis for birth. The thing that surprised me is that not all the stretches are limited to the hips. Calf stretches and windmills are important too, as is being aware of your body’s position during the day, especially while sitting. Sitting on a birth ball or even placing a small partially inflated ball on your chair, helps you sit up straighter on your sitz bones and sit more forward to encourage a good position for Baby.
Continuing the discussion of preparation for labor, we transitioned into the Three Sisters of Balance: Rebozo Manteada (belly sifting), Forward-Leaning Inversion and Sidelying Release.
Rebozo Manteada is a technique used by Central American midwives. Using a wide piece of cloth, called a rebozo, the support person lifts and supports the pregnant person’s belly while gently moving the ends of the cloth like train wheels. You can do belly sifting during pregnancy and in between contractions during labor. If you try this with your partner, you’ll notice how much relief it can give you from the weight of your belly.
A Forward-Leaning Inversion is exactly what it sounds like: the pregnant person leans forward, going from bed to chair or chair to floor, to rest upside down and stretch the ligaments of the pelvis. You can do this daily during pregnancy for 2-3 breaths. You can also do this between contractions during labor. For breech babies you can do this more often to encourage them to turn!
To relax the soft tissues of the pelvis, especially the pelvic floor, you can use the Sidelying Release. The pregnant person lies on their side at the edge of the bed or table supported by their partner. As their partner applies pressure to their hip they let their top leg hang off the table for a few breaths. During labor you can do this when labor stalls for 1-3 contractions on each side. (I actually just did this at a birth this week with success!). Tammy emphasized that it’s important to release both sides otherwise you risk creating more imbalance.
Before trying these positions (and any others), check out more information on the website and confirm with your provider that they are safe for you!
After lunch we went into labor! First we discussed clues that Baby might need help with positioning, including asymmetrical labor patterns (labor starting and stopping, very intense contractions, etc.). Then each section was broken down based on where Baby is located in the pelvis, starting with the top, or inlet, of the pelvis.
Babies that are not yet engaged in the pelvis can be encouraged to reposition and move down by circling and rocking the pelvis using belly dancing, taking stairs two at a time or making big circles on a birth ball with a bounce in between. For babies stuck on the brim of the pelvis, Walcher’s can be used to open the brim and allow Baby through. Walcher’s should only be practiced by medical professionals, but it’s very effective!
If labor stalls or Baby is malpositioned as they move into the pelvis, try the Sidelying Release to stretch all the pelvic muscles and open up the pelvis. To relax and reset, try an open knee-chest position while your support person jiggles your bottom with a rebozo. Spinning Babies calls this “shaking the apples!” After this try a lunging position or other asymmetrical position.
For issues when Baby is moving out of the pelvis and into the world, getting on all-fours is a great way to open up the pelvis. To get full mobility in the sacrum, try to avoid lying on your back. “Don’t lie on the door!” Many providers and nurses encouraging pregnant people to pull their legs open really wide when pushing, but that can actually close off the pelvis more. Keeping your legs parallel to one another and turning your toes in actually makes more room. You can feel this for yourself if you find your sitz bones (the bony bumps in your bottom) and open your knees and then close them again. You can feel the bones move together when you bring your knees out.
Again, this was an amazing opportunity! Not only did I learn a ton, but I also got the chance to network and interact with some incredible birth workers that I admire. So much fun! Thanks for reading!