One thing is key… to have the baby in a good position when labor commences.
Encourage an Optimal Position for Baby
Head down facing right or left is ideal for baby’s position to be in for labor. The pelvic inlet which is the upper portion of the pelvis is oval shaped, which is just right for a head to slip down into and get nice and snug. Once the baby is in this position, it is less likely that she or he will move out of that position. One way to encourage this position is if the mother leans forward when she is upright. The uterus is like a hammock. Leaning forward along with the natural pull of gravity will encourage the baby’s spine to lean forward into the tummy area… perfect for drawing the body to a sideways position.
If the mother typically reclines back into a recliner chair, however, soon gravity will tug on the baby to get its back to rotate the same direction as the mother’s back. This is not the best position for baby to be in when mom goes into labor. This encourages a ‘posterior’ position for baby. When the baby is posterior, the baby’s back is leaning towards the mother’s spine and the head does not fit into the pelvis very well. With each contraction, the mother will feel strong sensations in her back because the head is facing a way that puts more pressure on the mother’s spine. Hence, very uncomfortable back labor.
To prevent this, it is wise if the mother avoids laying back when she takes a hot bath or wants to sit in a recliner. Avoid those two things the last month of pregnancy. Rather, sit cross legged on the floor, or straddle a kitchen chair. Do whatever it takes to lean forward and still be comfortable.
As Dianne Feinstein said, “You have to … learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play it better than anyone else.” (Perez, 2006)
These are tricks to get the baby in an optimal position to begin labor. Now that labor has begun, now what?
Staying in one place for labor is not natural. One position will feel good for awhile but then, it just doesn’t feel right anymore. That’s when its time to find a new position.
Try doing the ‘slow dance’ with the husband supporting her. Rocking from side to side helps the baby settle down deeper into the pelvis. This is a good thing. As the head descends, it will put more pressure on the cervix helping it to dilate. Along with some music that puts mom in her ‘happy place,’ these measures can do much to put her in a state of comfort.
Of course, when the contraction ends, she can do whatever she wants. She can lie down and rest, eat a snack, go to sleep. It is a team effort between herself and her body. They respect each other and strive to be kind to each other.
There are many other positions a mother can assume such as leaning against a wall, kneeling over a birth ball, kneeling over a bed, straddling a dining room chair.
Support persons can press her knees into her pelvis when she is sitting. They can press on her lower back, wipe her brow, speak softly to her words of encouragement and empowerment. This is her moment to shine.
Surrender into the Energy
The body knows what it has to do. The mother’s job is to ‘stay out of the way.’ As the energy progresses and the baby descends, once the mother dilates to about 6 cm, it is a wonderful time for herself to descend into a pool of warm water. The warmth envelops her.
Some say that the sensations of the contraction drop by about 50%. This makes it easier for her to surrender and let her body do the work. The work it takes to birth a baby has been compared to running a marathon. She is burning about 300 calories per hour. That is why eating during labor is so important.
One woman I talked to recently said that she honestly had a pain-free birth. She’s had six children, some in the hospital and some at home. She’s had an epidural before. She knows all the sensations of birth. I asked her why she thought this one particular birth was pain-free. She said that they had taken the Bradley class. She was very particular to eat well during pregnancy. She was careful to take her walks, to do the exercise, to practice in her mind, to deep breathe and to practice with her husband. In her mind, it all paid off. It was a wonderful birth.
Another woman I spoke with had always chosen to birth using an epidural. She didn’t know anything else. On her last birth, she labored at home so long that when she arrived at the hospital, there was no time to give her the epidural. The baby was nearly crowning. After the birth and she was settled in, she couldn’t believe how good she felt. She had so much energy. She wanted to say to her husband, “Let’s go to a movie or something. I feel so good.”
Birth Can Be Empowering
For many women, the experience of a natural childbirth is very empowering. She has accomplished “a dynamic neurohormonal dance and dramatic physical transition.” (Simkin, 2011) The integral interaction of the mind, body, emotional, and physical realms to accomplish something greater than herself brings about a joy beyond earthly expression. She sees that she is capable of much more than the impossible.
Perez, P. (2006). The Nurturing Touch at Birth: A Labor Support Handbook, 2nd Ed. Johnson: Cutting Edge Press.
Simkin, P. (2011). The Labor Progress Handbook: Early Interventions to Prevent and Treat Dystocia, 3rd ed. Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.