The Towel Pull: A Helpful Childbirth Technique

Our daughter Lydia is now ten days old! She had a nice natural birth at the Midwife Center. The most difficult part was getting her head out, and for that I used a technique that also was very effective at that stage in the birth of our son nine years ago. Both times, one of the nurses was familiar with this technique while the other birth attendants were not–so I am spreading the word!

It’s called the Towel Pull or Tug of War. You, the mother, hold onto one end of a towel twisted the long way to form a sort of rope. Someone else holds the other end, or you tie it around a bar over the bed if there is one. You rest lying on your back with knees bent. When a contraction comes, you pull on the towel, curl your back forward, and pull your knees back and apart as far as you can, so you are making a C shape curved around your uterus.

It sounds like a lot of extra effort that could divert your energy from pushing. It sounds like ridiculous gymnastics. But it really works!

It made me feel able to gather up the sides of my uterus and push down from the top. Before trying this technique–even in this second birth, when I had a clear idea of what kind of pushing would be most effective–I felt like a lot of my pushing was happening too low in my body and was pushing in from the sides; I wanted to make the baby move down, but when I tried to tell my body to do that, it wasn’t working very well. My partner Daniel, who was watching the position of the baby’s head progress through several contractions, said he thought the Towel Pull caused me to make about 40% more progress with each push than I had been making in any other position.

For additional help, you can have your partner get behind you to support your back as you curl forward, and/or have him grab your knees to help you hold your legs back.

I am no athlete, although I am in pretty good shape and got some exercise (mostly walking and stretching) right up through the final week of pregnancy. I’m almost 41 years old so not relying on the resilience of youth. The Towel Pull was quite a workout, and my whole body ached the day after the birth–but my arms and legs and back were feeling better the day after that. Since the sixth day after giving birth, I’ve been feeling so good that I have to limit my activities consciously (because I’m not supposed to overdo) rather than go on long hikes like I feel I could.

The Towel Pull worked for me, twice! Visit Mom’s Library for more helpful tips for mothers!

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About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

7 Responses to The Towel Pull: A Helpful Childbirth Technique

  1. Congratulations on your new little one!

  2. This technique sounds interesting. I just had my last son about 3 months ago and turned 41 a month later. Ive always had my babies in a hospital for fear of pain mgmt!

    • 'Becca says:

      Fear of pain management? :-) I think you mean fear that you will need pain managment that isn’t available outside the hospital. But I actually have sort of a fear of pain management, in that I did not want to have an epidural because the idea of A NEEDLE IN MY SPINE freaks me out, although I understand there are safety precautions and all–I’m glad I was able to avoid it.

  3. Caitlin King says:

    Congratulations! I love the name Lydia! I hope everything is going well; it sounds from your comments about having to hold yourself back that you are feeling good!

    I’m so glad you had an easy delivery. I have never heard of the towel pull, and I read several books as well as attending an extensive natural childbirth class. I wish I had known this a few months ago since I pushed for 7 hours making no progress until we finally had to use a little Pitocin to get things going. I do NOT want to have to do that again (the hours of pushing or the Pitocin). I’m definitely filing this away for someday when we have baby #2.

    • 'Becca says:

      I wouldn’t call it an easy delivery exactly–her head was crowning for three contractions, and I pushed for almost two hours–but it was easier than yours!

      I don’t recall seeing the towel pull in any books, and it was slightly difficult to find the webpages about it that I linked. But I have seen in several books a similar technique of curling up and pulling on your partner’s arms, each of you grasping the other just below the elbows, that works by the same principle.

  4. Thanks for sharing about this. I’ll keep it in mind when I give birth in October.

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