Traditionally (at least in hospitals), women in labor were placed flat on their backs and told to stay put. And when the time came for delivery, out came the stirrups, in went the expectant mom’s feet — and just to be sure she didn’t slip or slide out of place, or touch anything she wasn’t supposed to, she was strapped in for the ride, too. This position worked great for the delivering doctor, who had easy access and a clear view of the goings-on. But what was good for the doctor wasn’t so good for the mom — who besides being uncomfortable and humiliated, was left to push out her baby without the helpful force of gravity.
These days enlightened practitioners — and better informed moms-to-be — aren’t taking labor lying down, or even in one place. Instead, expectant mothers are encouraged to labor any way in which they feel comfortable, change positions as often as they like, and deliver in positions far different from that flat-on-the-back pose. And for good reason. Lying flat on the back is the least effective delivery position of all — any position that enlists the aid of gravity is likely to yield speedier results. Plus, lying on your back with a full-term baby inside your uterus can put pressure on important blood vessels, possibly compromising blood flow to the baby. Getting a move on during labor, as well as varying positions often, cannot only ease discomfort but speed progress. Barring a high-risk condition that might keep a woman in bed or keep her from trying certain positions, today’s laboring mom can choose from any of the following labor and delivery postures (some of which can be used even by women with an epidural or continuous fetal monitoring):
- Standing or walking has been shown to relieve some of labor’s discomfort, but believe it or not, there’s an even better reason to get vertical: It helps you work with gravity, allowing your pelvis to open and your baby to move down into your birth canal (a very good thing). Walking is something you’ll be more likely to do early in labor (it’s a good distractor); it’ll be harder to head for the corridors for a few laps once the contractions are coming fast and furious. But standing is something you can do at any point during labor, though you might want to lean against a wall or your partner for support during contractions (it’s not that easy to stand up straight when you’re getting squeezed down there). Can you stand up and deliver? Gravity aside, that would be tricky — but you can squat (see below).
- Rocking, either on a chair or swaying back and forth, allows your pelvis to move and encourages the baby to descend (down, baby, down!). And the more upright you are, the more gravity is able to help you out. What’s more, you can sit in a rocking chair even if you’re being monitored continuously.
- Squatting, a position you’ll probably use only late in labor or during delivery itself, also employs Newton’s finest while opening up the pelvis to give your baby more room to move on down. You can use your partner for squatting support (you’ll probably be a little wobbly, so you’ll need all the support you can get), or you can use a squatting bar, which is often attached to the birthing bed (leaning on the bar will keep your legs from tiring out as you squat). Squatting can be used in conjunction with monitoring equipment.
- Birthing balls are large exercise balls that you can lean on or sit on during labor. Sitting on one helps to open up your pelvis, and it’s a lot easier than squatting for long periods. Like squatting, you can use a birthing ball even if you’re being monitored.
- Sitting, in bed or in your partner’s arms, can ease the pain of contractions and allow gravity to assist in bringing your baby down into the birth canal. You can assume this position even if you’ve been given an epidural or have a fetal monitor strapped on.
- Kneeling over a chair is a great position for back labor (when the back of the baby’s head is pushing against your spine) because it encourages the baby to move forward, taking the pressure off your back. Alternatively, you can lean over your partner’s shoulder to relieve some of that pressure.
- Hands and knees (on all fours) is another way to cope more comfortably if you’ve been blessed (not ) with back labor. This position, which can be assumed even if you’re attached to a fetal monitor, also allows you to do pelvic tilts for comfort, while giving your partner great access to your back for massage and counterpressure (you’ll want it, big time). Many women like to deliver in this position no matter what kind of labor they’re having, since it opens up the pelvis and uses gravity to coax baby down (maybe that’s what cows like about it!).
- Side-lying is much better than lying on your back because it doesn’t compress the major veins in your body (which could compromise blood flow to your baby). You can use the side-lying position if you’ve had an epidural or if you’re being continuously monitored — or if you just need to lie down for a while. Lying on your side also puts your partner in a good position — he’ll be better able to put his best massage techniques to use. Side-lying can also be a good delivery position — it can help slow a too-fast birth (yes, there is such a thing), as well as ease the pain of some contractions.
Keep in mind that a good labor position is one that makes you feel more comfortable (for a while, until you need to change — what felt good while you were breezing through the early stages of labor may make you feel miserable when you’re in the throws of transition). As for delivery — whatever works is the best position for you (your body will clue you in if you listen). Don’t feel compelled to squat when your semi-sitting’s doing the trick (and making you less inhibited about pushing). Read up on the different positions ahead of time (and even give them a trial run — but no practice pushing, save that for D-day! — before the contractions start hitting), but remember that until you’re actually in labor, you won’t know what’ll best bring you the relief — or the results — you’re looking for.
Article By: What To Expect