During pregnancy and childbirth, it is helpful to have many tools you can access in your tool belt while preparing for your VBAC, and to use during labor. These tools help you create a positive and, empowering birth experience. One of the tools we enjoy using as doulas is a rebozo. The use of rebozo during pregnancy and childbirth can be a great tool to keep you feeling comfortable and move things along during your labor.
What is a rebozo?
A rebozo is a long, handwoven scarf or shawl that is passed down from generation to generation and midwife to midwife. In Mexico, women use the rebozo for many things like babywearing, carrying groceries, or covering up from the sun. It’s also used during life transitions such as pregnancy, childbirth, marriage, and death.
Rebozo Manteada (sifting) is a gentle sifting technique used to sift a pregnant abdomen. Many doulas and midwives use this technique as an effective pain relief measure during pregnancy and childbirth. It is also used to relax the muscles around the pelvis which will help the baby get into a better position during pregnancy or labor.
According to Spinning Babies, the sifting technique aims to
- Relax tight uterine ligaments and abdominal muscles
- Help a baby rotate in pregnancy or labor more easily
- Help a birthing person relax in labor
- Reduce the need for medical pain relief
How to do rebozo sifting
A common sifting technique involves wrapping the rebozo around a woman’s belly as she kneels over an exercise ball or is in the hands-and-knees position. Ask your doula if they have a rebozo and are able to help you learn how to do this during your visit. This is done usually while contractions are not present or in between if the mother is in labor. However, the rebozo can also be wrapped around the hips or buttocks in various positions to support the birthing woman.
Step 1: It’s easiest to wrap the rebozo around the belly while the woman is standing and then have her kneel down.
Step 2: The support person holds the ends of the rebozo and combs through it to straighten it out so it is supporting the woman’s full belly like a hammock. The support person will be standing in a strong position with both feet on either side of the woman’s hips. The support person can also stand against a wall for back support.
Step 3: Gently lift the rebozo so it takes the weight off the woman’s belly and rock/sift the rebozo back and forth so the belly moves with it. This should be done gently– think of it as a rhythmic jiggle or vibration. Check to make sure it feels comfortable on her belly.
Step 4: When it’s time to stop, slow down your movement and let her know you are going to be done. Slowly lower the rebozo so the weight is gently given back to her.
You can do this each day during pregnancy to help the baby move into an optimal fetal position. This technique can also be used in labor during contractions for pain relief or positioning of the baby. It can be helpful to practice this technique at home with a birth partner so you will feel confident using the rebozo on the big day.
Shake the Apples
Another beneficial technique is labeled by Spinning Babies as Shake the Apples. Shake the Apples is used during active labor to relieve tension and relax the birthing muscles. It can also be done to help labor speed up. The labor position can be done standing, hands-and-knees, forward-leaning inversion, or open-knee chest.
Using the rebozo, the support person shakes the birthing woman’s buttocks back and forth in a jiggling motion. This should not be done vigorously, but it is slightly more forceful than the sifting method. This can be done for up to 20 minutes at a time.
Many doulas are trained in different rebozo techniques. When you are hiring your doula, ask her if she has experience using a rebozo!
When NOT to use rebozo for sifting or shaking the apples
- If it is uncomfortable or painful in any way for the birthing woman
- If there has been any bleeding from the placenta or unknown bleeding from the vagina
- If the birthing woman doesn’t want to
- Ask your provider if it is okay if you have an anterior placenta