You can always “use” Spinning Babies®. Spinning Babies as an approach for comfort in pregnancy and ease in birth can be a way of seeing what is going on. We can take that approach further into noticing fetal position as a clue to choose body balance and labor easing activities. But there are some activities that we promote and teach at our workshop that either are not safe in some situations or might not be safe. These are contraindications. There are also times when it’s not clear whether a technique carries an additional risk when certain medical or other conditions are present.
Let’s take a look at a few Spinning Babies® techniques. We want everyone to know when to be careful using our techniques or when to avoid doing a technique altogether. Spinning Babies arranges three particular techniques in our particular order. We love these three techniques as a base for body balancing and comfort.
There are so many benefits to these three techniques! Used regularly in pregnancy and in early labor or if there were to be a slow down or back labor during childbirth, these Three Sisters of Balance are so effective for so many that you might suspect rainbows and flowers. But there are a few situations these should not be done. Let’s look at the dark side for a moment. We will learn something important.
When to Avoid a Technique
Abdominal sifting with the Rebozo is used in pregnancy or early labor for relaxation, comfort, or activating the parasympathetic nervous system where calm and good fetal growth may arise.
Abdominal sifting involves lifting the belly with a woven scarf. Because the belly is lifted and then sifted, even though we recommend sifting gently, any bleeding that is not related to cervical dilation in labor is contraindicated. Be sensitive that some will not want another person standing behind them while on their hands and knees on the floor. Explain the position slowly and give a pause to let the person decide if they want to continue. With some creative adaptation, you could do the technique standing or even with them on their back and the rebozo under their buttocks.
On the website, I’ve written to be careful doing abdominal sifting when the placenta is anterior, or in between the baby and the abdomen. This is not a contraindication. It is a warning. Because so many people seem to overdo activities I wanted to make clear that a gentle jiggle is all that is necessary and not to be vigorous. Continue to lift the usual amount, but don’t go as fast as you might see on YouTube. We’re not trying to change baby’s position with this technique.
Jerking of one end of the Rebozo is not recommended at Spinning Babies because knowing details of fetal position, preparation with massage (Sabado), and other subtle skills are required before a jerk of the cloth can be sure to be safe.
The Forward-Leaning Inversion is an amazingly effective technique for balancing the cervical ligaments. We’ve increased the clarity of how to do the steps in and out of the inversion. The website lists benefits and contraindications as well.
High blood pressure (hypertension) or an inability to regulate changes in blood pressure (POTS), recent surgery, weak shoulders, and other medical reasons not to go upside down. Not being confident in the choice to do an inversion is enough of a reason not to do one. Glaucoma might be a reason not to do inversions. Weinreb warns not to do inversions with glaucoma (1984). Jasien reports that pressure changes aren’t significant and more studies could be done before knowing whether inversions are contraindicated (2015). We have glaucoma on the contraindication list but this may be shown in time to be acceptable.
Hypermobility is a contraindication for doing the Sidelying Release. People who are hypermobile know who they are. Alternatives to body balancing can be addressed by professional body workers. If there is a spasming round ligament, address it first with the Webster Maneuver or, if known, a gentle touch to distract of the ligament. Wearing a pregnancy belt will support the belly in this case or any situation which would increase comfort by doing so. A small pillow under the belly isn’t appropriate because when positioned correctly for Sidelying Release there won’t be room for the pillow. Discomfort in the bottom hip or leg is typically corrected by repositioning the bottom hip so that alignment is better.
In general, safety measures and respectful pacing reduce unwanted effects. Being aware of medical contraindications means being aware of medical conditions. A doula who may be suggesting techniques might learn much about the pregnant client by taking a moment after describing the technique, its purpose, and benefits as well as contraindications. A pause at this time can come with these or similar words, “Take a moment to consider whether this technique is right for you” or “Check in with your body to see if this technique feels right for you.”
When there is a medical, preference, or practical reason not to do a technique you may find an alternative. The alternative may not be as effective, for instance, nothing untwists torsion around the cervix like the Forward-Leaning Inversion. Several other techniques might be necessary to achieve comparable benefits to a Sidelying Release. You’ll find your way to add balance with techniques that are available.
I hope by knowing the contraindications you will feel confident with the techniques recommended at Spinning Babies. And with them, you experience the brightness of physiological birthing in more gentle experiences of spontaneous births.