If you’ve taken a birthing class, then you are probably familiar with the terms “occiput posterior position,” also known as “sunny side up.” It means baby’s face is facing your belly with the hardest part of his head resting near your lower spine. Though possible, that is not how you want baby to be born.
The optimal position is left occiput anterior (LOA) position with the back of baby’s head facing your belly instead of your rear. This way, the smallest part of baby’s head, the crown, will be born first and make for a smoother delivery.
However, baby does not always assume this position at the start of labor. Babies might not even be head down at all. Although, there are effective ways to turn baby even while in labor, the best thing to do is get ahead of this situation at conception with good chiropractic care.
Chiropractors correct slight dislocations up and down your spine, even in your pelvis. When the vertebrae are aligned, your brain is better at sending signals to the rest of your body, including your uterus. With a correctly aligned pelvic area, baby can naturally fall into the correct position. All chiropractic care is beneficial but the Webster Technique was meant to create this type of space for baby.
The Webster Technique is a specific chiropractic adjustment on the sacral area. The chiropractor slightly lifts your pelvis, then gently pushes down. Often times, you’ll hear the table move which sounds alarming, but is part of the process. By lifting the part of the table where your pelvis is, it decreases the amount of pressure the chiropractor must apply.
In the Webster Technique, the chiropractor targets the sacrum, hips and ligaments that may be twisting, pulling or weighing down your uterus. Its goal is to improve pelvic balance and function. With a properly aligned pelvis, baby has more room and space to descend into the optimal fetal position LOA.
Additionally, chiropractic care, in general, corrects misalignments in the spine to improve communication between the nervous system and the rest of the body. Without the nervous system communication, our muscles, organs, ligaments, bones, and joints simply do not function.
This is why chiropractic care, specifically the Webster Technique, is so important while pregnant. A report by the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found there was an 82% success rate for the Webster Technique, meaning it successfully primed the uterus to allow the baby to turn on its own from a breech position to head down.
With the nervous system functioning at its best, babies have more room to move and grow and develop properly in a balanced pelvis. The mother also benefits in a number of ways such as having more comfort during pregnancy, shorter labors, and even a birth canal wider in diameter which decreases her chances of having complications and a difficult labor.
The Webster Technique is non-invasive and safe throughout pregnancy. Practitioners even recommend beginning chiropractic care before conceiving as it can help with fertility issues.
One of the goals of the Webster Technique is to prevent a breech or transverse position. It creates an environment where baby can naturally turn throughout pregnancy and even during labor. However, some babies do require gentle intervention if they have not turned in time. No, it’s nothing invasive, painful or risky. It is a method based on physiological movements that mama learns through a certified trainer or care provider and can practice at home. It’s called Spinning Babies®.
Never Fear, Spinning Babies® Is Here
So you’re nearing your due date and just found out that baby is breech or transverse (lying sideways across your abdomen). In a society that has made the word “breech” sound scary, you can’t help but be afraid and ask yourself, “Will I have to get a C-section?”
After all, over half of births that start out breech or transverse, end in C-section. This is because modern doctors are not trained to deliver breech babies. It’s much faster and time-saving to cut a mom open then to encourage baby to change position while in labor.
Of course, not all labors can safely deliver naturally or vaginally, so Cesarean sections, or “belly births” as my birth instructor coined them, are the safest option. But, in a low-risk pregnancy, it is better for the mom and baby to allow labor to progress naturally and use techniques that gently coax baby to rotate from breech/transverse to head down.
After all, women’s bodies were built to birth. So is there a way to get baby in the optimal position before your wheeled off to the operating room? Yes, it’s called Spinning Babies®.
What is Spinning Babies®?
Spinning Babies® is a technique developed by midwife Gail Tully that eases baby's rotation down and through the pelvis. Its purpose is to position baby for a normal, even natural, childbirth.
A Certified Spinning Babies® caregiver teaches you physical exercises that use balance, gravity and movement to create space for the baby to enter the pelvis. You can use these exercises throughout your pregnancy and during labor. There are many movements but the four most common, called The Fantastic Four, are below:
Popular Spinning Babies® Techniques
- Rebozo Sifting
A Rebozo is a long, woven wrap similar to an oversized scarf. Your doula, midwife or birthing partner uses it to relax your smooth muscles and jiggle your belly so that baby can wiggle into place. While on your hands and knees, your caretaker will stand behind you and place the rebozo under your belly like a hammock. Then she’ll pull the ends of the rebozo up alternating each side -- lift right, lift left, repeat. This lifts the belly and gently rocks it side to side. This motion nudges the baby and encourages her to slide down the pelvis head first in the direction of gravity. It also relaxes the muscles across the uterus which encourages spontaneous labor, or a caretaker will do this before attempting other Spinning Babies® techniques.
- Standing Sacral Release
This extremely gentle therapy softens ligaments that attach the uterus to the sacrum. Sometimes these ligaments can be twisted or tight causing strain on the uterine wall and keeping baby from achieving optimal fetal position. As you stand with your arms leaning on a wall or chair in front of you, a chiropractor or myofascial therapist rests the ball of her hand on the top of your sacrum with fingers pointed down. She applies very light pressure and glides her hand down and out away from the body as if going down a slide. She’ll repeat this until the tiny knot of tension around the ligament is released. Your doula may also try this move on you in early labor.
- Forward Leaning Inversion
This position helps baby move head down and can engage the head on your cervix. That means the crown of the head rests directly on the cervix and not to one side, which can cause a cervical lip. Trust me, they are painful! But by practicing these inversions daily, you create more space near the cervix and may experience less back pain and pressure on your sacrum because baby will turn head down. Sounds good, right? Yes, but you cannot do it alone. With an adult spotting you, kneel on a couch and walk your hands down the couch onto the floor. Rest your head on the floor and take three deep breaths. Do this once a day and baby will find her way to your cervix more easily. You can also do this on stairs; just make sure to kneel on a landing so you have more room for your legs.
- Pelvic Floor Release
Also known as sidelying release, this movement balances the pelvic floor which in turn untwists strained ligaments in the lower uterine region. You can do this throughout pregnancy with your chiropractor or your partner who has been shown how to support you. You will lie on your side with your shoulders and legs stacked on top of each other. Your caretaker will apply pressure to the front of your top hip bone as you bend your top leg. Keep the bottom leg straight as an arrow and allow the top leg to lean over and hang off the table or bed you are lying on. This position requires complete trust between you and your health professional. After a minute, raise your leg back up and do the same on the other side.
If there is one thing you take away from this post, I hope it is the knowledge that a breech baby is nothing to fear. There are several ways you, your birth partner and care provider can work together in helping baby go from head up to head down. The most effective ways are getting chiropractic care, specifically the Webster Technique, and doing the Spinning Babies® movements.
The Webster Technique preps your pelvis to receive your baby in the optimal fetal position, LOA. It also eases back pain, pelvic pressure, and many other discomforts pregnant women experience.
Spinning Babies® offers natural, physiological solutions to turn malpositioned babies. It releases tight ligaments that pull or twist your pelvis, and this method aligns the uterus so that baby can move through the pelvis as nature intended.
Both techniques serve women in many ways, specifically easing back labor, decreasing time in labor, reducing instances of Cesarean sections and, of course, turning babies from breech or transverse position to head down.
Search for a Webster Technique-certified chiropractor on the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) website. And contact your nearest Spinning Babies® Parent Educator here. Their promise is that “Together, we notice that when women restore the balance in their muscles and alignment in the pelvis, birth goes better.”