Rebozo Sifting

Photo by Keidi Lin Photography

Sifting, or jiggling, the entire abdomen can relax tight ligaments and may help a baby rotate in pregnancy or labor more easily, and help a birthing woman relax into her labor.

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There are more ways than one to relax!

The hospital has muscle relaxants and narcotics to relax a woman who is either tense emotionally, or simply tense in her abdominal fascia, prolonging labor. But this simple and fun technique from the Yucatan Peninsula helps relax mothers with no drugs at all.

Try the Rebozo sifting daily or weekly in pregnancy, and between contractions during early and early active labor.

Watch this video of a couple using the Rebozo in a labor induced with Pitocin. This is a couple for whom I was their doula.

She was induced at 42 weeks and 2 days. Her baby was born healthy and bright – her mom chose no pain-reducing drugs. She was content with only the rebozo, freedom of movement and the use of light massage on her arms, soft talk and dim lighting for comfort.

 

When NOT to do the Rebozo

  • Avoid sifting with the Rebozo when there is a threat of miscarriage, such as signs of bleeding or low cramping in early pregnancy, history of multiple mid to late pregnancy miscarriages or losses in past pregnancies. Use a myofascial diaphragmatic release instead.
  • When the round ligaments are tight or cramping in mid or late pregnancy, the Rebozo wouldn’t be dangerous to the baby, but could make the mother’s round ligament spasm. So, do only a lift and very gentle and slight rocking. Otherwise you might “set off” a round ligament spasm which hurts. If the mother isn’t getting these spasms, you are not likely to set them off with the Rebozo.
  • Do not perform vigorous or even moderate sifting with the Rebozo or a Rebozo substitute against an anterior placenta. This warning is intuitive, I know of no research on this. Early in pregnancy we wouldn’t know the placenta is anterior but before 12 weeks the uterus is low enough for placental location not to matter.  I believe Rebozo use would be ok if done gently without jerking. Mid to late in pregnancy I want to be careful and mindful with an anterior placenta.
  • My preference is not to use the Rebozo for repositioning the baby through force, jerking one end or flipping the abdomen in the direction you want baby to go. Typically this may not be harmful, but occasionally baby’s head and body are at 180 degree difference and this jerking of the Rebozo against the mother may jerk the baby the wrong direction.

Done gently there is no danger. Done vigorously with abandon to caution then these are the times you shouldn’t do it. Done correctly, a useful Rebozo session in pregnancy is moderately vigorous, but WITH caution and sensitivity to the mother and baby!

The helper’s slightly bent (soft) knees and shoe-less feet help the helper perceive the connection between the Rebozo and the mother’s body more sensitively than if the helper’s knees are straight.

 

Before using the Rebozo

Ask the mother if she is having frequent round ligament pain, in the abdomen above the pubic bone off to the sides, either side. Right where the midwife or doctor reaches to check for a head in a head-down baby. If she doesn’t have pain or “zinging” there at times, she is not having round ligament pain.

The helper should slow themselves down, get calm, and “tune into” the mother and the calm mood desired to be achieved by this rhythmic technique.

 

Rebozo Laura Carlos about to start view
Beginning with the traditional cloth. Tanya Villano Photography

How to do Rebozo Sifting

  1. Use a wide, woven shawl or folded thin t-shirt style sheet or such. It has to be about 5-7 feet long.
  2. Kneel in front of a chair, couch, or birth ball. The helper helps you to wrap the rebozo around your abdomen like a hammock around the baby.

    Rebozo Laura placement of rebozo
    The entire abdomen is wrapped with the traditional cloth. Tanya Villano Photography
  3. Rest belly down, lean onto a chair. Use pillows for knees and chest for comfort as needed. Drape your arms over the ball, chair or couch rather than resting your weight on your hands. Now the mother is in position to start. Here’s what the helper does:
  4. Have a trusted friend stand behind you and hold the ends of the material like reigns of a horse (sorry, just trying to help you picture this). They lift the weight of your belly off your back, snug but not uncomfortable. Mothers sigh in relief at this point.

    Rebozo Laura Carlos
    The partner (helper) stands on either side of the mother’s hips. Tanya Villano Photography
  5. The helper lifts the belly enough to lift the weight of the womb from the mother’s back. When the helper begins to sift, the material won’t slide along the belly. Short movements are made slowly at first, and then with increasing speed. Not larger or wilder movements, just faster.
  6. In several seconds, your belly is jiggling like you are being vibrated. Breathe freely, slowly and let your belly hang into it. It’s enjoyable. If not, tell the helper to adjust the speed or pressure of the Rebozo.
  7. Give your friend feedback so that they are not too broad with their movements or too mild, don’t lift too high or too little.
  8. After about 2 minutes your friend’s arms will be tired and they should slow down gradually for several seconds before stopping.

 

Rebozo Laura a start
Keeping the wrists straight helps the helper avoid wrist strain. The thighs engage to help lift the belly. Tanya Villano Photography

When to do the Rebozo sifting:

  • Weekly would be lovely.
  • Each prenatal or pregnancy appointment with your helper, doula, bodyworker, friend, or midwife.
  • In early labor, between contractions
  • At 4 cm dilation in labor, when things are slow (between contractions)

Fetal malposition?

  • Begin any series of Spinning Babies techniques with Rebozo sifting for 2 minutes (til your arms are tired, longer is fine)
  • Try this twice a day if you are in a time crunch to give baby the room and softness to get themselves repositioned.

 

Just for fun, here is a short clip of women practicing the sifting technique with Rebozo scarves at a birth doula workshop. They each have a different rhythm.

Done? After the Rebozo, a pregnant or laboring woman can do a series of balancing exercises, Spinning Babies techniques, or simply rest, depending on the goal of the day.

In the 3 Sisters of Balance, the Rebozo sifting on all fours position begins the trio. Then a 30 second Forward Leaning Inversion is done according to directions and not if the mother has a counterindication (reason not to do it); the last technique of the 3 Sisters is the Sidelying Release. These three techniques complement one another and cover a lot of area. The Fantastic Four adds Standing Sacral Release (aka, Standing Release).

 

Alternative ways of balancing the relaxation of the broad ligament are:

  • Forward-Leaning Inversion
  • Diaphragmatic Release
  • Standing Sacral Release
  • Sidelying Release (Pelvic Floor Release)
  • Maya Abdominal Massage
  • More myofascial releases in general
  • Craniosacral therapy
  • Therapeutic Massage of the abdomen and broad ligament