Bowen therapy and ‘optimal fetal positioning’

John Wilks tours Australia in February 2018

UK Instructor John Wilks will travel to Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney to teach 2 workshops:

  • Pregnancy and Birth: How Bowen practitioners can help achieve the best possible outcome for mother and baby (Taught by John Wilks and Lina Clerke)
  • The Secret Life of Fascia

One of the important aspects of good posture and appropriate exercise during pregnancy is to encourage what Jean Sutton and Pauline Scott have termed ‘Optimal Fetal Positioning’. This is the position of the baby in the womb that creates the easiest and most stress-free position for both mother and baby at birth.  There are many ways this can be achieved through appropriate exercise, healthy posture and therapies such as Bowen.  Most mothers also know that sitting too long or slouching on a sofa are not helpful for encouraging the baby to get in the right position in the womb.

Specifically, as well as aiding relaxation and wellbeing, Bowen can help in pregnancy by improving the mother’s posture and encouraging good blood and nerve supply to the uterus.  Creating more hydration and fluidity in the connective tissue will result in increased blood and nerve supply.  This is particularly important in structures such as the internal iliac artery, which supplies the placenta and muscles of the lower back such as the psoas major and quadratus lumborum.

Posture in pregnancy has as much to do with ergonomic factors such as how we sit at a desk or drive the car, as with more unconscious influences such as stress or poor eyesight, when we might have a tendency to strain forward to read properly. Therapists have an important role in educating mothers about good posture, particularly relaxation postures that encourage optimal fetal positioning.  As the pregnancy progresses and the baby grows, then the center of gravity changes for the mother and this can put undue strain on areas like the lower back and sacrum which many therapies have an excellent track record in treating.

Sitting and Posture

Unfortunately, many women have to work until very close to their due date, something that might involve prolonged sitting at a desk or a computer.  It is important that if sitting at a desk, the hips are higher than the knees as this increases the angle between the legs (the femur) and the trunk.  Ideally the hips should be a good 6 inches (15 cm) above the knees, which can be achieved by placing a cushion on the seat of the chair.  Another helpful thing is to take phone calls standing up rather than sitting down or at least getting up regularly and walking around.  At home, activities such as crawling on all fours for a while every day, climbing stairs and regular swimming (belly down) can help the baby settle into a better position. Previous generations were advised to scrub the floor as the slightly forward position with the shoulders lower than the pelvis can allow the baby to disengage from the pelvis and move into an easier position.

Birth educator Lina Clerke writes:

The preferred position for baby in labor is ideally head down, chin well tucked in, with baby’s spine toward the front. The optimum position is the spine toward the left front of mother’s belly (LOA). The baby’s spine will likely be palpable to the right front or left front of mum’s belly with movements felt on the opposite side of her abdomen. Posterior position means baby’s back is facing mother’s back, so her belly may look a little concave when she lies on her back, and she will feel most of the baby’s movements at the front of her tummy. Posterior position can cause uncoordinated contractions, and make it longer for baby to find its way through the pelvis. It can also cause a lot of back pain, all of which may lead to exhaustion and subsequent requests for pain relief, and augmentation of labor. If the baby cannot turn around or cannot come out posteriorly, forceps, ventouse or caesarean section may be needed.

Having said all that, it is important not to scare women by the prospect of ‘posterior labor’ as some pelvises lend themselves well to posterior babies who find their way out just fine. However, because of the increased chance of long difficult labor with posterior positioned babies, it is recommended that women do whatever possible to encourage baby into anterior position. Here are some recommendations.

From at least six months into pregnancy and preferably sooner:

  • Avoid leaning back when seated – as in bucket chair, deep sofa/armchair. Especially avoid sitting leaning back with knees higher than hips. Instead sit forward for example by straddling the back of a chair and placing pillows beneath your folded arms (over the back of the chair) for comfort. In this position your knees should be slightly lower than your hips.
  • If sitting on a sofa, have an extra pillow beneath you so the knees are slightly lower than hips. And pillow behind back so your spine is straighter.
  • Sit on a birth ball or a physiotherapy ball– making sure that knees are slightly lower than hips. Make sure ball is blown up enough to do this and it is the correct size for you. Birth balls make excellent chairs, encouraging gentle movements to stabilize the body, and assisting abdominal muscles to gently work – this not only tones the abdomen, it helps support the back. After the birth, the balls can be used for rocking the baby and doing tummy exercises.
  • Crawl daily for a few minutes – this encourages baby’s heaviest part (the spine) to fall forward so that baby is more likely to be in an anterior position. It also gets mum familiar with the all fours position that she is likely to adopt in instinctive labor. All fours is a great position to practice rocking/tilting the pelvis back and forth, which helps release the back and pelvic floor. Making circular movements in both directions with the tail is also excellent to keep the whole area supple and mobile. If crawling is not an option, lean forward over chair or sofa and wag the tail with the spine parallel to the floor.
  • Avoid squatting in last trimester. If the baby is posterior, squatting could encourage baby to descend deeper in pelvis in that position, and to ‘engage’ in a posterior position.
  • If baby is posterior in the last month or so, crawl often, and even get on floor in knee – chest position and wag tail – this may help give more room to baby to move around if baby is deeper into pelvis in a posterior position.
  • Doing forward leaning inversions can also help to encourage baby into optimum position. It is very important to do these properly and to know when to avoid doing them. For details visit
  • A rebozo can be used too with good effect to turn posterior babies
  • Avoiding walking in heels
  • When getting out of a car, keep the knees together by swiveling on the chair (placing a plastic bag on the car seat helps with swivelling)
  • Walk regularly (at least 30 minutes a day but also if sitting at a desk get up and stretch every 20 minutes)
  • Swimming regularly (especially the crawl)

Excerpted with permission from Choices in Pregnancy and Childbirth by John Wilks and Lina Clerke.

Please join us in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney to learn more.

Mother and Baby (Pregnancy and Birth: How Bowen practitioners can help to achieve the best possible outcome for mother and baby)
Pre-requisite: Module 7

Perth: 3-4 February, 2018
Melbourne: 10-11 February, 2018
Brisbane: 16-17 February, 2018
Sydney: 22-23 February, 2018

Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for more information about the workshop.

Registration is now open! Download your registration forms here. 


Please share!

Categories Practitioners, Training | Tags: , , | Posted on October 12, 2017


  1. by Maree Kendall

    On October 26, 2017

    How do I book into John Wilks workshop on 30 October.
    Kind regards, Maree Kendall

  2. by Administrator

    On October 27, 2017

    Hi Maree,
    The registration form will be made available on our website on Monday, 30th October.
    Please complete it and email it back to us.

  3. by Maree Kendall

    On October 30, 2017

    Thank you 🙏

  4. by Angela

    On January 18, 2019

    Wondering if John Wilks and Lina Clerke plan to return to Australia this year or next to teach the optimal foetal positioning again?
    Kindest regards

  5. by Administrator

    On January 21, 2019

    Hi Angela,
    Thanks for dropping by. Not that we’re aware of at this stage, but please feel free to get in touch with John directly. See for his contact details. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for all upcoming CEU workshop opportunities:
    We hope to see you at a workshop soon!


  1. Bowen therapy and fascia | Bowen Training Australia blog

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