What is the Abdominal Release?

The abdominal release is also called the diaphragmatic release. The diaphragmatic release helps the broad ligament relax, giving the baby more room to get into position for labor. This simple myofascial technique can be learned by a partner or a friend. I personally learned this technique from Carol Phillips, DC.

Atlanta Abdominal ReleaseThe release is a subtle physical technique using the lightest pressure possible. The upper hand does not rest on the abdomen, as that would be too much pressure for the fascial response we want.

Some people say it is “energy” work. Though all matter is energy, I disagree with calling it this because the light pressure is a type of compression. We need the light touch for the fascia to respond. If we press, we’ll be going to the level of the muscles and the fascia will be “pinned” down by the force of even moderate pressure (like the pressure of a hug, for instance).

How to do the Abdominal Release

  1. The mother can lay on her back or her side. If on her back, she can be slightly propped up by pillows. Her weight should settle through her back (not her bottom). Loose clothing may help make this technique a success.
  2. The helper uses the palms of each hand to “hold” the woman, but applies no pressure.
  3. The top hand touches the lower abdomen. Use the hand that will end up having the thumb point in the direction of the woman’s upper body, or navel. The light pressure required means the helper can’t rest their hand on the woman’s abdomen, as that would be too much pressure.
  4. The bottom hand should be horizontal across the sacrum. The mother then lays on the bottom hand. As she relaxes, her weight “opens” her back over the wedge-shaped palm of the helper.
  5. Now the mother breathes as if she is relaxed and falling asleep. She can sleep if she’d like, or have a pleasant and soothing conversation with the helper.
  6. Within moments (the time varies with the woman) the helper will feel subtle movements traveling slowly (usually) between his or her hands. There is a few second delay between the hands.

The movement may feel like flutters or waves. A fluid motion might be noticed, like tapping or little pops. The woman can usually feel them, too. They are light enough to be missed unless the helper is quiet in their perceptions.

Continue to do the abdominal release until the motions stop.

Learn more about how to do a diaphragmatic release from an article in Midwifery Today.

 

 

Here, midwife Shawn Walker does an abdominal release with our Spinning Babies® volunteer in Norwich, England.

When should you do it?

You can perform an abdominal release any time. It can be done weekly, once only, in pregnancy, and/or in early labor. It often takes only 10-30 minutes, depending on the individual.

I suggest it whenever there is a fetal malposition, heartburn that repeats, or the pregnant woman feels uncomfortable or in pain when the baby kicks. Some midwives have even used this technique regularly in pregnancy for easing childbirth.

 

What if it doesn’t work?

Practice holding a balloon between your palms so lightly that if you held it with any less pressure it would fall towards the floor. That’s the amount of lightness I’m talking about when using this technique. A light touch is still a touch!

You can learn to do this technique with another trusted person, but you may prefer to find a professional who does this type of fascial wor for a greater chance of success..

Photo by Crystal Garcia Photography

Are there any good alternatives?

When a woman can’t lay on her back, she can stand and use the Standing Sacral Release instead.

 

Related research

The Manual Diaphragm Release Technique improves diaphragmatic mobility, inspiratory capacity, and exercise capacity in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a randomized trial
Rocha, Taciano et al.
Journal of Physiotherapy , Volume 61 , Issue 4 , 182 – 189

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