To Birth a Baby, Get Off Your Back!

Christie Haskell
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Hopefully for most of you, the idea of birthing flat on your back brings up facts about how that's the least effective position short of hanging from the ceiling by your ankles, how it closes up the pelvis by approximately 30 percent, and how in some other countries, it's actually illegal for a provider to suggest a woman birth on her back unless it's necessary or of course, unless she actually wants to.

No? That's not what you were thinking? 

It's because women rarely see anything other than birthing flat on the back (which isn't okay for your whole pregnancy but is for 5-10 hours in labor?), it can be hard to think of other ways you could give birth, and that's where I come in.

There are many other positions to labor or give birth!

  • Sitting upright. On a stool, the edge of the bed, on a birthing/exercise ball, or even over the toilet, helps speed along labor with the use of gravity (the baby pushing down does help dilate you!). Try sitting towards the edge of the seat (feet on the floor) and leaning forward, even onto your knees or onto something stable, or leaning back onto your arms, or even a support person sitting behind you.
  • Leaning forward. One of the positions that felt best to me in labor was standing, leaning on the birthing ball which I'd actually put ON the bed, while my husband used my vibrating back massager on my lower back. You can also lean forward onto your husband (or partner, doula), as if you were hugging him, but with your feet a little further back and more of your weight on him. Swaying gently while doing this can be soothing and comforting. You may find that being on your knees and leaning over onto a birth ball or the edge of your bed feels good.
  • On all fours. Yup, getting down on all fours, and sometimes rocking that way, can be a very effective and comfortable position for both labor and birth. Arching your back, and just using this position in general, can help with "sunnyside up" births, or if you do it enough during pregnancy, can help rotate the baby who would have been. Try pillows under your head if you want -- you can even do this on the bed.
  • Squatting. Either sitting on a birthing stool, or squatting while holding onto the edge of a chair, bed, or even the birthing ball again really helps open the pelvis and encourage progression of labor. You could have your comfort person sit in a chair, and you squat on the floor in front of them, leaning your head onto their lap.

These are just some suggestions. During  your labor and delivery, move around (or get help moving around) until you find what feels best and right to you, whether it's standing with one leg up on a chair or laying on your side with a leg held up. Moving and walking, swaying and squatting all can not only help alleviate pain, but can aid in a speedy labor with minimal trauma to your vaginal area, prevent the baby from getting "stuck" and make your birth experience much more pleasant in general.

Even if you don't want a water birth, sitting in a fairly warm bath or standing in a hot shower can not only help ease any discomfort but have been shown to help almost as much as pictocin in early labor. Your blood pressure CAN drop from these, but not in a negative way, but be aware of that in case your doctor tries to freak out when you step out of the tub.

Try packing a rice pack and ask a nurse to pop it in the microwave, bring a birth ball (if your hospital doesn't already have one), and buy a cheap, battery-operated massager at the store in case you have back pain. Even if you're not opting for the hospital, obviously these all still apply.

If you feel you have to lay on your back, try to either sit the bed as upright as you can handle, or consider laying on your side, even with pillows propped behind you. Get creative! Don't let hospital procedures ruin your birth.

 

What position do you feel is best for you in labor or delivery?

 

 

Image via wickenden/Flickr

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