What is Spinning Babies, you say? Is someone actually spinning babies? No, silly. This is the popular birth movement pertaining to optimal fetal positioning designed to encourage shorter, smoother labors for mothers and babies.
Our culture spends a great deal of time worrying about whether baby is head up or down – vertex or breech. But mainstream birthers and their care providers often miss more about fetal positioning coming into the pelvis that can really affect outcomes of births.
Any woman who has experienced a “posterior labor” and pressed onward for a vaginal delivery, will do almost ANYTHING in future pregnancies to prevent that from ever happening again. Posterior means that the head is down, but the baby is coming into the pelvis facing up (mother’s belly button) rather than facing down (mother’s tail bone). In a posterior labor, the prominent occipital bone presses on the mother’s tailbone, she rarely gets relief between contractions, as would be the case with a baby in the optimal position. Additionally, the baby’s head is not pressing optimally on the cervix, causing delays in the dilation, prolonging the labor. The statistics of these posterior labors turing into surgical births are staggering. The pain is almost unbearable. Often babies will flip prior to birth, but many women opt for medical intervention before this occurs. How many mainstream OBs and even nurse midwives are discussing this in routine prenatal care? Posterior complications in labor are a far more common occurrence than the breech baby.
It is thought that our modern lifestyle of high-heels, overstuffed furniture, and reduced time on hands and knees and squatting as was done in more primitive cultures are culprits in encouraging babies to rotate around to the posterior position. Midwives will often recommend women get in their garden or scrub a floor on their hands and knees if a persistent posterior baby is found in prenatal visits toward the end of pregnancy. Spending 15 minutes a day at the end of pregnancy is the best way to encourage a gentle rotation of the baby to a more optimal position heading into birth.
Midwives spend a good deal of time assessing fetal position with our hands on the mother’s abdomen during prenatal visits. Not just for breech or vertex (head down), but we are looking for optimal fetal positioning – good flexion of the head, and weather we have posterior or anterior presentation. Although many midwives use Doppler to hear baby’s heart beat, many of us will use the low tech fetoscope or Sklar Leff (these are jacked-up stethoscopes) for heart tones, as we will only hear tones over the baby’s back nearest the head. This confirms what position we are feeling with our hands.
Spinning Babies is a web project of Minnesota midwife, Gail Tulley. Gail travels around the country giving midwives and OBs who will hear her, education and tools for helping babies in utero adopt an optimal fetal position before labor begins. Her work has been published in many recognized journals. Her information has been sought after for years by midwives and pregnant women.
I am grateful Gail made a trip to Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, NH this fall where I attended her workshop. It was day to deepen and enrich our understanding of tools and tricks to help babies adopt the position they are naturally meant to be in while in utero.