Saturday, November 22, 2014

When the doctor says "No."

"I am a doula to a mom with Mo/Di twins. I recommended SpinningBabies to her since her wee ones are transverse right now. She spoke with her Dr. who said to avoid the Spinning Babies exercises stating they were not safe for her type of twins.

I would like to know your opinions and thoughts on this. "

My response may help those of you who are facing two seemingly opposing points of view.

Monochorionic Twins
"Which exercise does her Dr. mean to avoid? [Spinning Babies presents dozens of exercises when you combine the website and the videos. The doctor may not have meant to ban walking,  Maya abdominal massage, or many others.  He is likely concerned that her movement might have the twins bump each other and move in the uterus and so entangle the cords or the twins. When the twins are small, 12-18 weeks or even 24 weeks, their own play in the watery environment might do just that. Life is mobile and so objects and people interact.] I would suspect [the doctor meant for her to avoid] is the forward-leaning inversion. There are, instead of the forward-leaning inversion, balancing exercises that do not require an inversion.

Your hand will follow the tension later in the release
The standing sacral release requires nothing more than standing with soft knees (for both the mother and the helper), breathing into a relaxed belly, and the lightest touch, no lighter than that even.
She can ask her doctor about that one.
My approach [to support the best release of maternal hormones]  is to honor the relationship that the mother has chosen and not to interject my opinion. I find there are many avenues to "yes" and seek those that lie within the scope of practice for the doula and within the parameters the mother has set by her choice of care provider.
Balance is a spectrum. Unwinding or untwisting the lower uterine segment is a goal and while the forward-leaning inversion is most efficient at doing this unwinding, there may be other places in her body that, once balanced, can encourage her body to find the space to allow the lower uterine segment to unwind.

Think of the cervical ligaments and their fibrous, living rope, connection to the pelvis, particularly the sacrum. If we can't "move the lower uterine segment" via the forward-leaning inversion, is there a way to mobilize the sacrum gently without inversion? Seek these ways. Seek a greater connection to the babies and a more parasympathetic nervous system state. So calm and open though inward and peaceful, rather than alert and aware.
There is much we can do even though there is something we can't do. Seek the way to "yes" without orienting yourselves against the "no."  Then you will find the parasympathetic state of maternal hormones.

In 2001, before Dr. Carol Phillips conceived of the forward-leaning inversion, I helped a friend with approximately 7 pound transverse twins. We did Rebozo and a thorough abdominal massage (not a relaxation massage but working with fascia and smooth muscle, much like Maya Massage) and an abdominal myofascial release. After these three, her babies when head down.  
There is always more than one way to "yes."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Incarcerated Uterus

Her uterus was retroflexed (aimed backwards).  During the first trimester of pregnancy her womb, still tipped back, grew into the curved space in front of the sacrum and tailbone under the sacral promontory. The uterus is not up in the abdomen at all!

Picture from Wikipedia
Once upon a time, a doctor wrote about this rare condition and used the phrase, "incarcerated uterus." Wikipedia reports the frequency as 1 in 3,000 pregnancies.

Why would this happen? Seems related to ligament weakness. The round ligaments aren't able to do their job or the uterosacral joints are too short - or both. Immediate help may be necessary.

Potential solution? If the mother has not high blood pressure or other risk of stroke, she can begin doing forward leaning inversions and sidelying releases. Standing Sacral release will give the sacrum more mobility to,  hopefully, release the womb.

 I would also add, gentle jiggling ("shake the apple tree" in a sublte style) while in the open knee chest (thighs to spine are in the letter "A" - its not about the knees being apart, Ladies!)

In knee chest position with knees further from tummy than the mother's hips are... making that letter "A" again, could a doctor gently, gently jiggle the womb up to the abdomen. Balance muscles first, side lying release first, empty bladder and empty tummy... Would this be safe to do? I'd want the baby listened to and monitored and the mother monitored an hour after. So this would be a hospital technique in case of tragedy.

What if nothing is done? Pain, bleeding, urinary difficulties and infant loss are associated problems. Act sooner than later.

With supervision, I'd think the above techniques may work. They wouldn't be without risk and the jiggling can be gentle - to stimulate stretch receptors in the muscles so they lengthen and soften and let the womb come up in the abdomen which during the inversions is lower than the pelvis for the moment. Ask your doctor, if this problem happens to you, and let me know what happens next.

References are at

Prevention? Balance your ligaments with guidance from professionals and with wisdom from Daily Essentials DVD or the upcoming Spinning Babies Parent Class. Get Body Balancing before pregnancy if you've been found to have a retroflexed uterus. Usually this won't happen, even then, but preventative measures will also help move towards an easier birth all around.

See for women with actually incarcerated wombs... And more on IsisRising from

Monday, October 20, 2014

Father Faruk protects his twins natural birth

Midwife Lina Duncan is a Global Midwifery Council friend living and serving birthing families in India.  She helped Faruk and his wife find the resources to help their full term twins get head down on a recent Spinning Babies adventure. 

Here are Faruk's own words: 

"...Me and my wife, Yasmin, went for sonography. We were all the time visualizing to have twins as that would make us more happy. And guess what, Sonologist said yes you have twins! 'Bingo!' So all happened as per what we had visualized.

Now, all the nine months went great we never had issues. We went for regular check up with a hospital that we felt was great in Jogeshwari (Millat), Mumbai [India].
Doctor in all my wife's visits said 1 thing, that you are healthy and all is fine with you and babies, and we were as happy as ever .

In the 9th month visit, Doctor said to please be prepared as there will be a cesarean in your case, as first [baby is] breech and second baby head down =-O 
We were in almost shock as how can she say this now or she should have informed as much prior as sonography reports were all same all these months. 
[Gail's note. Her doctor was likely reserved due to the risk, especially in cases where the second twin's amniotic sac has opened, that the second twin's head gets in the way of the first twin when the first is breech and the second is head down. This would likely be fatal. With an intact sac for the second twin, this is less likely. I have noticed that twins usually come smoothly when a mother is well nourished, moves freely, and babies are full term. Their doctor declined helping a natural breech/vertex birth. So, Faruk and Yasmin continued their quest.]  

Still, we insisted her that we want to go for normal delivery. Doctor said that in her entire studies and work experience never ever she has seen such case end up with normal delivery. She said if you don't trust me then better change doctor. She was not ready to listen. In fact, she was not ready to answer all our queries. She was just like closed door.

All right, now my wife looked worried and so was I. While we were on our way to home I was driving, I smiled to my wife and said, don't worry that's what doctor feels, not us.
But we will get what we think and we want things just normal and it will happen, so just  relax. 

Now I started searches, all in google, [and] starting speaking to many people on this till finally I landed to Ms. Lina Duncan, miracle lady :-) 

She was the only person I found to be realistic in all her approach and I felt quite positive when I had spoken to her. She was in constant touch with me gave me many ways to come out of this situations. I [tried] whatever she told until finally she send me email links on Spinning Babies...  and it was great. 

Midwife Doctor examines pregnant woman in India
Photo thanks to

We understood the technique watched all videos in there and finally decided to make positive try on Spinning Babies techniquesNow we are in 9 months and 15 days. Babies are also big. Almost each are 2.7 kg and babies were very [far] down, we did the spinning like toe and knee on bed and both palms on floor [forward-leaning inversion].

We did for 2 days and went to a new doctor in HABIB Kurla, Mumbai whom we had spoken during this phase who was very positive ready to talk and ready to give positive try for normal delivery. 

Just in the check up doctor said your baby is head down and not breech. We then did sonography to get it confirmed. Yes! It was head down 'BINGO!' :-D

We were very happy and in next 2 days my wife had normal delivery. The pain was just 10 minutes and babies were out with no need for NICU for babies so finally all went as per what was visualized.

My hearty thanks to Lina Duncan, her group, Mother Gail Tully.  You all guys are amazing as you had created a whole new way of looking at critical situations into a simple fun and enjoyable exercise and change things overnight. Your team is a real time success team with 100% commitment, coordination, help, support.

I would request Mother Gail Tully that such education has to spread in India as the need is more here I have seen. Just in this 1 month, many other twin moms don't want cesarean but are forced by doctors saying it is the last option. All these mothers need education...

Wish you all best of luck for all your future endeavors.

Kind Regards

From my response:
Dearest Faruk, wife of Faruk, and our mutual and gentle friend, Lina Duncan. 

How lovely to receive your precious story! This beautiful fulfillment of your healthy birth of twins is a testament to the significant benefits that the faith of a father for his family creates for their birth. A father's loving certainty relaxes his wife and allows peaceful hormones and a state in the parasympathetic nervous system which is ideal for helping mother's relax smooth muscle and allow babies to shift head down. 

You also did the technique called the forward-leaning inversion that helps "make room for the baby."  The forward-leaning inversion helps give a gentle stretch to the lower uterine segment which may lengthen a shortened utero-sacral ligament or release a tight posterior or transverse ligament whose job is to support the lower womb. This technique may resolve a twist or tightness that may make less room available in the lower womb. Perhaps it was this technique that made a bit more room for your first twin to slide head down towards the cervix. 

With all this, dear Faruk, you and your wife kept your vision, kept your peace, and continued your determination to find a way for a peaceful twin birth. 

Thank you for your kind request for this education to spread in India. I feel the pull of a billion souls and will work to make my next book so that I have something to show Indian parents...

Friday, September 26, 2014

Breech then and now

Thirty one years ago I caught my friend's breech baby in Omaha, Nebraska. I was thinking of this Monday with a group of midwives and doulas at the lovely Mommy Fitness Omaha with Julie Summers and Kelly Langfeldt of Five Stones Massage and Birth Services. Kelly invited me down to present a Spinning Babies Workshop to the now thriving Omaha birth circle.

My friend's midwife was unexpectedly delayed on that night so long ago.  But I'd done my best to  prepare for just this contingency. She'd loaned us the resources she had; Williams, Oxorn, a booklet by Sheri Daniels, and the already popular Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin and Farm Midwives.
The week before her birth, I'd called Sheri Daniels, Pamela Hunt at the Farm, and a midwife in Minnesota to gather words of wisdom. The consensus --get to the hospital and don't do this at home! If the baby gets stuck the baby could be brain damaged or die. We were looking for hospital options.

My friend's hospital option: cesarean surgery, ten day stay, no husband allowed to hold the baby until baby is home. My friend's history: her aunt had her first baby breech at home with a veterinarian some decades earlier. My friend's decision: stay home at all costs.

Now there is a change that happens in life between the waiting for and the holding of a baby. Her decisions were during the "waiting for" period.  My nights were spent on my knees after reading through the books again and again.

She found a willing doctor, who could take her on Monday when her insurance coverage could be changed over. Friday, this doctor tried to do an External Cephalic Version but the baby couldn't turn with it. Her labor started Friday suppertime. In the wee hours of Saturday morning her little girl was born. Seven pounds of wailing wonder.

Today women face similar politics. Women struggle to find care in the hospital. Few doctors have breech skills. Few midwives have them either and those that do are generally home birth midwives without hospital privileges.

Today we have emerging breech skills. England is taking full responsibility to train doctors and midwives in breech skills and birthing women can find the options with a internet search or word of mouth referral. North of England Breech Birth Conference starts tomorrow in Sheffield on 27-28 September. My dear friend Jane Evans is speaking on the mechanisms and physiology of breech birth and Dr Frank Louwen will present on the dynamic benefits of "upright" maternal position for breech - the knee-elbow (very similar to hands-and-knees) for breech birth. I heard them in Ottawa in 2009 and know that breech lives have been saved for the goodness of their sharing their wisdom.

The three pillars of safe breech birth are:

  1. Don't touch the breech (when rotating and descending spontaneously), 
  2. Knee-elbow position for the woman (spontaneous upright positions are supported or hands and knees suggested for new breech providers and when other upright positions aren't spontaneously chosen by the mother (not the midwife or doctor), and 
  3. Don't cut the cord (the baby's blood in the cord returns to the baby expanding air sacs and reviving most slow to cry breech babies).

With these beginning guidelines the rates of complications for breech drop dramatically. Frank Louwen will be sharing data from over 350 upright breech births in Frankfort. Babies get stuck far less often. When they do get stuck babies need a practiced provider to free most of them. Good luck only goes so far. Practice with a doll and pelvis until the techniques live in your hands.

I wish I were in England this weekend with Jane, Helen, Frank and friends. I'm grateful to my Omaha friends for starting me on this grand adventure I call Spinning Babies! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why won't this labor start properly?

This post discusses onset of labor.

A woman is commonly considered in labor when her cervix is progressively opening and continuing to open. Stages of labor are the first stage of cervical dilation, the second stage of "pushing" or until the actual birth of the baby, and third stage which begins after the baby is out and until the placenta is out. A fourth stage of labor is described as the following period of newborn and mother's adjustment from birth to physical stability.

Early labor from 0 or 1 cm to 3-4 cm.
Early labor is a time we expect baby to be engaged. In an experienced mother, engagement may not occur before latent labor in an on and off labor pattern, or in early labor, where dilation is gradually moving to 3-4 centimeters. A minority of women are open to 3 or more centimeters when labor begins to open their cervix further.

In first births, for first time mothers and for many VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) we expect baby to engage before labor starts. When a first baby isn't engaged until labor begins the rate of cesarean is high. (Oboro; Siddiqui; ROSHANFEKR) Fortunately, we can let babies engage in labor with the help of labor contractions in certain maternal positions described at

This baby is not engaged although the nurse can feel the back of baby's head.  The forehead overlaps the pubic bone.  Overlapping the pelvic brim may keep labor from starting smoothly, or, oddly enough, the woman can get to 10 cm and pushing but the baby remains high at -3 station. The overlap can only be felt when a woman lays on her back. 

The slow labor start up.
Women may have contractions that keep them awake. Yet when the cervix isn't dilating they aren't considered to be in labor. Doctors and midwives often tell them to go home to bed and come back when contractions are longer, stronger and closer together.

The stop and start labor.
Other women may feel their contractions come strongly but then they taper off and stop. They can get very strong, but seem to back off. Later the contractions may start up again only to stop again. The cervix isn't changing or isn't changing in any encouraging amount.

Strong contractions like transition, but the cervix is 2 cm dilated.
Once in a while a woman has many symptoms of strong active labor. She may feel a bit nauseous, shaky and have hot and cold flashes. Sometimes she feels like pushing. Rushing to the hospital, she and her loved ones and doula may expect to find out that the baby is coming quickly. Imagine the frustration when the nurse checks and finds out that the baby is still high in the pelvis or even above the pelvis. The cervix is hardly opened and the os or opening of the womb is still tilted far back.

If labor doesn't start smoothly, determine through an exam or your own exam if baby is engaged well or not. Engagement is the first step to labor progress.

The help to engage is within the mother's body. Balancing the body (fascia, ligaments, muscles and joints) help soften those anatomical features that may be tight or shortened, spasming or asymmetrical. Simply put we release what is tight.  The psoas muscle pair are key players and walking is a way to support their length and suppleness.

She does an abdominal lift while flattening her lower back.

Dad helps with an abdominal lift in early labor to engage baby and let labor progress.

In labor, the abdominal lift and tuck through ten contractions often helps baby engage. See more on this great technique devised by a mother, Janie King, in her book Back Labor No More.

Only if this technique doesn't work, try Walcher's Open-the-Brim position. For details on Walchers and more on Engagement in Labor see

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flexion matters

The Anterior Positions and LOP

At Spinning Babies, fetal position matters.

Babies positioned on mother’s left side more often curl and tuck their chins more easily (flexion, flek’-shun). This makes baby’s head measurement smaller and lines up baby with the pelvis to be able to help in the birth process.

Flexion is more imporant than position. Muscles and ligament “balance” is more important than size.
Discovering how to tell your baby's position is in the Belly Mapping book and the Spinning Babies website.

A flexed head can measure up to 2 cm smaller than the same baby's head extended, or having the chin up.

Not only that, but a flexed head molds even smaller. An extended head takes hours longer to mold, if it needs to. And first babies almost always need to reshape the top of their heads to fit the bones of the pelvis.

A flexed baby can use their spine, back and shoulder muscles to help themselves be born. Flexed babies bodies are lined up to make their kicks at the top of the womb (fundus) be more effective in moving them down through the pelvis. Most babies on the left are anterior and flexed. The Left Occiput Posterior baby may be flexed and rotate readily with the help of strong labor contractions.

Gail and her sister, Kathleen, will be exhibiting Spinning Babies at the great Lamaze DONA 2014 conference. Come to our booth and see the book. If you're pregnant, come for a free belly painting!  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A new start for active labor, a new question for progress

The new guidelines from ACOG

Recent changes in defining active phase of labor from 4 cm to 6 cm. This change is intended to help first time mothers avoid being given a cesarean when labor is simply slower than what was considered normal. Longer labors can certainly be normal. So when the question is asked, "How far dilated is she?" or "How far dilated am I?" the pressure for progress is extended to 6 cm now.

Active labor was considered 4 cm and a changing cervix. A long stall at 4 cm, meaning the labor is not progressing past 4 cm though contractions are regular may be a reflection of the distraction to the mother. A social gathering that seemed supportive before labor began may actually be the delaying factor for a woman who is waiting for privacy to enter the active labor phase. Tension or distrust in the environment or people in the immediate area may keep a woman from "relaxing into" labor. Or, she may simply be waiting to arrive at her birth place upon when her labor may take off quickly once she feels safe to open.

ACOG had long stated that doing a cesarean before active labor for length of labor alone (and not health indications) was unfounded. In a move to reduce the unhealthy and high cesarean rate, ACOG has taken another step. Moving the start of active labor to 5 cm for an experienced birthing woman and to 6 cm for a woman's first labor gives women more time to labor.

The better question is, "Where's baby in the pelvis?"
The woman and baby may need this time to help baby engage if engagement hadn't happened yet. The baby is high, at "-3" station. Often a mother hears that baby needs to come down more and the nurse or midwife doesn't explain station. Its OK to ask. An approximate station is helpful information even if there is a little variation in the number.

Another way to ask is, "Is the baby in the pelvis? Is the baby ballotable or well engaged?"
Answers like, "The baby is high," or, "The baby isn't in the pelvis yet," also mean "-3" station.

Engagement in labor is often due to the mother choosing a position that opens the brim, and is less likely in the first time mother to be by chance or time. Opening the brim with Abdominal Release, or an Abdominal lift and tuck (not at all a tummy tuck, ladies!) can help the baby enter the top of the pelvis in about ten contractions time.

During the phase of labor near 5 cm, the first baby would often be already engaged and moving onto the pelvic floor in the midpelvis. The fetal station would be "0" or nearly "0" at "-1" or "+1".

Giving extra hours for those women having a longer labor whose baby is near "0" station may give time to help baby rotate through the pelvic floor.
Easing this time is often helped with the Sidelying Release. Choosing a myofascial release is choosing the first Principle of Balance. Labor may pause an hour as the uterus has a short rest and then will resume. Sometimes, though, baby comes quickly so be where you want to have the baby. If labor doesn't proceed when baby is in the midpelvis, a lunge will give room for the bones and for the tighter pelvic floor to open on one side. Do the lunge through a contraction for 3 contractions on each side and then repeat.

Waiting for a labor to progress that is holding at 6 cm, or 5, hour after hour may reflect a misunderstanding of labor progress. First attend to the soft tissues and alignment (or balance) of the pelvis. That's why Spinning Babies first principle is Balance. Then open the brim or open the midpelvs depending on how far down baby has gotten with the Principles of Gravity and Movement. That's where were find the techniques and moves to open the pelvis.

Understanding the rotation needs of the baby and the levels of the pelvis, we can support labor progress more smoothly and save a woman many hours of waiting. Sometimes, as in lack of engagement, or transverse arrest waiting can take days and still not lead to progress. Let's increase our observation skills and ask the right questions to find out where baby is and what baby needs to make the next turn on the journey.

Changing the Earth by supporting Birth

Mothers bring forth life; medical corporations do not. Birth can be simple, powerful and loving. Fetal positioning, natural birthing and practical help for normal birth.