Try a Rebozo for Labour Support

A Mexican shawl that can transform the birth experience
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Photo Credit: Julie-Anne Mauno

As a doula, I know how challenging it can be for a woman giving birth to feel connected to her body, especially in situations such as being hooked up to a hospital monitor or IV. That’s why the rebozo—a long Mexican shawl—has become my new favourite labour support tool. It has the potential to transform any birth experience, to deepen your relationship with yourself and birthing partners, and to give you a closer bond with your child. It’s beautiful and extremely versatile. It’s easy to see why the rebozo was historically a part of Mexican women’s daily lives, as well as their births. Here are my top three reasons as to why I believe the rebozo is so wonderful for birth and beyond. 

Connection

This is one of the things the rebozo does best, and possibly what I love most about it. Because it’s so long (3 metres in length), it can be wrapped around the birthing mother’s shoulders while her partner gently pulls on the ends to create a comforting hug. In an instant, her partner is feeling her body’s instinctive movements and participating in them with her. Mom and her birth partner can also “hide” underneath it to block out distractions, sync up their breathing, or have a private conversation. These techniques can be used in any birth scenario—home, birth centre or hospital. The focused connection of the mother's body can also help her to feel more intimately connected to her baby as she moves with the natural instincts of labour. 

Relaxation

Another wonderful use for the rebozo during pregnancy, birth, and beyond is encouraging relaxation; crucial for any birth! Partners can drag the rebozo over the birthing mom’s body, head to toe, or drape it over her, gently stroking her body. This consistent motion can calm the nervous system and therefore any anxiety or stress that the mother may be experiencing. By placing the rebozo underneath the mother’s back or limbs while gently pulling the ends from side to side in a sifting motion, tension is released and she can more easily relax into the contractions. Relaxation is key for efficient contractions and labour progression, so any way to increase it during labour is fantastic. 

Comfort measures

The rebozo quite simply helps mothers cope with pain during birth. As an extension of my hands, it makes my job as a doula easier. An example of this is the hip squeeze technique. The rebozo is tied snugly around the birthing mom’s hips for constant relief. Partners loosen or tighten it as needed, bringing their bodies close for extra comfort, releasing oxytocin and endorphins (important birth hormones). As a doula, I focus on the rebozo as a comfort measure. Mexican midwives skillfully use rebozos for specialized tasks like rotating a baby. In both cases, the rebozo helps mothers benefit from important elements like relaxation, position changes and hormonal releases that make the labour process smoother.

You’ll hear people say you can use a sheet in place of a rebozo. However, its unique woven and lightweight design makes it more effective than any substitute. The best part of owning a real rebozo is how it becomes a keepsake that can be used throughout your child’s life for connection, relaxation, comfort and story telling, including the re-telling of their birth. Many of the techniques mentioned above can be used with your child and your partner well beyond the birth. You won’t get that from a hospital sheet. Buying rebozos also supports Mexican artisans, which is a wonderful way of thanking them for sharing their wisdom with us. Try it out and discover what a truly life changing, eco-friendly choice the rebozo is for your birth!

*Originally published July 28, 2016