Wednesday, May 4, 2011

There's More to Back Labor than Fetal Positioning! (Review of "Back Labor No More")

I recently read the book Back Labor No More by Janie McCoy King as part of the required reading for the Hypnobabies Instructor training. I didn't need any more reasons that Hypnobabies is the right childbirth education method for me to teach, but the inclusion of this obscure-but-downright-amazing book in the training requirements is another one. I have never seen this information anywhere else (in my 3+ years of reading books and websites on natural childbirth) or heard of any other childbirth education method teaching it.

Most people with a basic education in natural childbirth know that having a baby in the Occiput Posterior ("sunny side up"--facing the mother's pubic bone instead of her spine) position can cause back labor. I've never had back labor, but I've heard it can be excruciating. You hear a lot about optimal fetal positioning in the natural childbirth community, and if the techniques on the Spinning Babies Site work to get your baby in a better position, that is great for you. However, some babies will stay posterior no matter what, and, what's more...

Not all back labor is caused by the baby's position

Some women will have back labor even with a perfectly positioned baby. I have two good friends who both have had intense back labor despite having anterior babies. Back Labor No More explains that women may experience back labor if they have:
  • A "short rise" (short torso)
  • A swayed back (tends to stand with knees locked and pelvis tilted so that her rear-end sticks out)
  • pelvic abnormality
  • back injury
The author, Ms. King, has a short rise herself, and experienced painful back labor during her first three births. At the admonition of her father, King had majored in math in college. In her book, she applies her mathematical understanding of vectors to the process of childbirth. The book, which is short, fun, and easy-to-read, explains the concepts in ways that are easy to understand and internalize, with lots of drawings and activities that involve learning with your whole body. If you really want to be able to use the technique, you really need a good understanding of why it works, and to really understand, you will have to read the book.

A simplified explanation is that, in back labor, the force of the contraction (the vector) is directed at the woman's spine. You can solve this problem by changing the direction of the vector, which is done using a relatively simple technique called the belly lift. King is not the first to use this technique and have it work, but she is the first to explain why it works. Vectors. Read the book. You'll get it.

Misty used Hypnobabies and the belly lift to have an easier birth with her posterior baby. This video was uploaded two years ago. In the comments section, Missy explains that she had a wonderful experience using hypnosis with her third baby (anterior), but then her fourth baby was posterior, and she found that hypnosis didn't help as much with the back labor as she wanted. After that birth she found out about the belly lift, and used it for the birth of her fifth baby, from which this footage comes.

This technique is not only reported to get rid of the back pain (though apparently it may have to get worse before it gets better), it also sometimes speeds dilation significantly. It has also been reported to help women have faster births who don't have back labor. I believe this may have been the case in the video below, which I saw on Bellies and Babies, who posted it because she liked the way it was edited, with the music, narration, and combination of still shots and video footage. In it, Jodi explains that her midwife recommended the belly lift to her because of her posture (possibly she was sway-backed?), and it shows her husband helping her with the lift.

I'm serious when I say that Back Labor No More is a must-read for all doulas, childbirth educators, doctors, midwives, maternity nurses, and pregnant women, especially pregnant women who have had back labor before, think that one of the categories above may describe them, or have a baby who tends to hang out in the posterior position (or the right occiput transverse position, since these often rotate to posterior). Although you won't find this book in your bookstore or local library, the information makes it worth ordering. It is very easy to pay for it through PayPal on the author's website, and if you are paying with a credit card, you don't even need a PayPal account. You can also order it through Amazon.


  1. thanks for sharing this. I just had my first baby and she was posterior, hopefully this will help the next time around.

  2. Thank you for reviewing this book. I'd heard/read about it when I was pg with #1 and doing the Hypnobabies self-study two years ago. I ended up with a traumatizing birth experience that included a week of prodromal labor coupled with absolutely excruciating back pain/spasms that were beyond anything I'd ever felt. Nobody knew what was going on, and the fact that my daughter was ROA the whole time just made the whole thing even more mysterious. I'm 27 weeks pg with #2 and will def get this book now in case something similar happens again.

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  4. Everytime I hear how much this technique has helped younger sisters, it makes all of the years spent in researching and writing this book worthwhile. Although back labor is the primary focus -- let's face it almost no one else has been willing to address the problem -- it will assist abdominal labors as well. As an older sister who has been there, Janie

  5. "Back Labor No More" definitely helped my labor (didn't read it until pregnancy #4)!!! My whole labor was pretty short, and no one had any idea that I was anywhere close to delivering because I appeared so relaxed. They were all shocked when I made everyone that I didn't want present leave and my baby was born 1/2 an hour later. I wish I could say it helped with the entire process, but I am a very small woman- it took every ounce of effort I had to actually push the baby out. I wish there was a technique as helpful to pushing as "Back Labor No More" was to labor, as I am pregnant with my fifth child.

  6. Loved this book! I had 36 hours of exhausting and painful back labor with DD#1, and dreaded - a little - the birth of #2 because the midwives and my acupuncturist kept confirming that he was OP. But we used the techniques and not only was birthing time MUCH shorter (1 - 9.5 cm in 3 hours) but also, I had NO back discomfort and even the midwife was surprised when my son was born OP just like his sister had been! I recommend this book and Hypnobabies to everyone!

  7. I enjoyed the expertise you brought to this topic, and think your recommendation to read this mentioned text is sound.