Part 3 of 7, written by Christina Thomson, Certified Birth Doula and Lamaze Childbirth Educator
Attribution: Lamaze International
Healthy Birth Practice 2: Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor
One key element to having an easier, faster and more productive labor is movement. In the past, moms were drugged and laid out flat on their backs to give birth and given very little opportunity to move around during labor. To this day, even a lot of media still portrays birth as a "lay on your back and push" method.
Movement during labor optimizes baby's positioning by using gravity to helps engage baby into the pelvis, naturally move baby down the birth canal, and can help relieve pain. It can also decrease the amount of intervention needed to help labor progress. Depending on your medical condition, fetal monitoring may be required intermittently or continuously during labor. Some hospitals have wireless fetal monitors that allow you to still walk around without restricting movement.
Follow these 3 major points to ensure you have freedom of movement during labor:
1. Your choice of a care provider is important. Be sure to choose someone with a natural mindset that supports movement in labor.
Women who are moving around and use upright positions during labor have shorter labors, less intervention, report less severe pain, and describe more satisfaction with their childbirth experience than women in recumbent positions.
Changing positions frequently move the bones of the pelvis, helping the baby find the best fit to come down. Moving around can also help prevent c-section by reducing the chances of a stall of labor or shortening the amount of time a stall lasts; especially in early labor.
2. Stay at home until you're in active labor. Contractions every five minutes lasting about a minute each for a steady hour or two is a good indicator you're approaching active labor. Laboring at home is more relaxing because you're in your own environment.
Upon arrival at the hospital, be sure to request that IV use and continuous fetal monitoring be used as little as possible unless medically necessary.
Before choosing medication for pain management, be sure you're aware of how it could impact your ability to move. Most medications make it difficult to walk and stand during labor. An epidural will completely confine you to bed. A "walking epidural" generally refers to the ability to move your legs. The administration of pain medication generally requires the use of an IV and continuous fetal monitoring, which can restrict your movement quite a bit.
3. Prepare for labor and birth. Learn what to expect for childbirth and gain tools for staying comfortable throughout the process. Be sure to hire a doula or have a friend or family member join you during labor to help you with positioning techniques.
Positive positions for laboring:
- Hands and knees can relieve back pain and help baby rotate into optimal position.
- Sitting on the toilet uses gravity and relaxes the perineum.
- Sitting upright allows gravity to work and is a good position for resting. Sitting on a birth ball can be very soothing and allows for rocking your hips and bouncing.
- Squatting uses gravity and opens the pelvis to allow baby to descend. Request a squat bar to be attached to your hospital bed.
- Side-lying is another great position for resting, helps move oxygen to baby and is a good position if you have an epidural.
- Leaning or kneeling forward on the bed or wall allows baby to rotate into proper position, can relieve back pain and is great for pelvic rocking.
- Standing and walking use gravity to encourage baby's descent.
The key is to listen to your body and move in a way that feels natural to you. Throughout the duration of your labor you might find one position helpful, but then find it doesn't seem to work at a later time. It's important to remember that with each position change, sometimes that first contraction or two in the new position may seem very uncomfortable. Give the new position a try with a few contractions before deciding that it's not comfortable for you.
Be sure to surround yourself with positivity and only have people in the room that you are comfortable with. The more relaxed and mobile you can be during your labor, the easier it will be!
The Institute of Medicine says it takes on average 17 YEARS after new research is published for medical professionals to change the way they practice. Don't get stuck with outdated practices for your baby's birthday! With our private prenatal lesson or "intensive" ONE DAY childbirth class, you'll learn how to get evidence-based care to optimize your birth outcome. In both Atlanta and Tampa, we teach an "intensive" preparation for childbirth with our "ONE DAY" group class. You can reserve 2 seats here.
If you cannot attend an in-person birthing class with us, we suggest you schedule a private prenatal lesson. Registration for either the Intensive class or a private, in-home lesson includes access to our online Lamaze Learning Center where you may watch videos, read further research and download sample birth plans. Both these class options are an excellent opportunity for you and your birth partner to gain current evidence based birth practices that can help you have the safest birth for you and your baby. Sign up today.
This post is part 3 of a 7 part series written by our team of Lamaze Childbirth Educators. Stay tuned for upcoming posts in our series, How To Alleviate Fears and Manage Labor Pain.