Movement has many benefits for the laboring mother. Changing positions can help alleviate discomfort and pain during labor. It allows the laboring mother to find a position that feels most comfortable and helps them cope with the intensity of contractions. Movement and different positions can help with the progression of labor, as it can encourage the baby to move down the birth canal and stimulate contractions. Changing positions can help the baby navigate the birth canal and can increase the likelihood of a vaginal birth. Moving positions can help the mother feel more in control of their body and the birthing process, which can lead to increased feelings of empowerment and confidence.
Mothers instinctively move, sway, squat, and change position to help baby navigate. What does this actually look like at the birth center? It means very little time is spent in bed. Here are some of our favorite moves for labor.
Walking in early labor, up stairs or “curb walking” can be helpful in getting contractions to become more regular and increase in intensity. The gentle bounce of mom’s body can help baby get into a better position for labor and birth. Walking outside can bring a much-needed breath of fresh air or change of scenery, especially during a long labor. Many times labor happens during the night and the quiet, late-night or misty, early morning walks are rejuvenating.
Standing and gently swaying side-to-side can help ease the pain and pressure of contractions while encouraging the baby to descend. Swaying can help a laboring mother from tightening the muscles in the hips and pelvis. Being held and supported by a partner can increase oxytocin (a.k.a. the love AND labor hormone), promotes partner bonding, and helps to have a more efficient birth.
Sitting on a birth ball is one of the most popular positions for our laboring mothers. Many of them have found relief from hip and back pain by using exercise balls during pregnancy and sitting on the ball in labor is comforting and familiar. Swaying side-to-side, in circles, or figure-eights can help baby navigate the pelvis. Sitting on the birth ball maintains the upright position but allows for mom to rest her legs. Gentle bouncing can be a welcome distraction from the surges.
Leaning forward on a surface, such as a bed, chair or counter, can help take pressure off of the lower back and provide a sense of stability. Leaning into the labor swing helps with back pressure and also allows for support and movement during contractions. Leaning forward during contractions allows for a support person or doula to provide massage, counter-pressure, or hip squeezes.
Squatting can help widen the pelvic opening and make more room for the baby to move down. This position can be free-standing or supported on a birth stool or labor swing.
Hands and knees position or kneeling can help relieve back pain and can encourage the baby to move into an optimal position for birth. Similar to leaning, this position is very helpful for moving a posterior baby. This position is most comfortably done on the bed. Yoga mats can help provide comfort for the hands and knees while in this position on the floor and folded bath towels can help while mom is in the water. In this position, a rebozo can be used to gently sift baby into a more favorable position or take the weight off mom’s back for a short time. This position can be an excellent, more upright position for pushing.
Lying on the side is a great position for mothers to catch short naps between contractions. Although it sounds impossible to sleep in labor, moms that have been awake for a long time can fall asleep and start snoring within a few seconds of her contraction ending.
Using a peanut ball in this position helps to keep the pelvis open and, along with mom resting and relaxing, it is a favorable combination to help a posterior baby to rotate. The midwives will help the mom alternate sides, about every 30 minutes, to encourage baby to move.
A side-lying position can help alleviate back pain and reduce pressure or swelling on the cervix. Laying down can help restore mom’s energy, alleviate the premature urge to push, and allow mom’s body to “labor baby down”… all of which can shorten the pushing phase of labor! This can also be an excellent position to push in.
Sitting or leaning in a warm bath or shower can help relax the body and ease pain. Sometimes referred to as an “aqua-dural”, the relief of getting in the water can provide relief like an epidural. As labor progresses towards transition, many mothers find relief in the water. Getting in a warm bath can help ease sore, tired muscles and make the pregnant belly weightless. The labor tub often causes contractions to space out and to decrease in intensity for a short time. Many labor positions can be modified and done in the tub.
Sitting on a birth stool or toilet can help take pressure off the lower back and can provide a sense of grounding. Often referred to as “the labor station”, the toilet is an excellent, quiet, place of “natural release”. (Mothers have been relaxing and “releasing” there since childhood.) Turning backward on the toilet and using a pillow can help mothers find a little rest between contractions. Yoga blocks or a squatty potty can also help to be in a slightly squatting position on the toilet.
Midwives at the birth center use a doppler to listen to baby, intermittently, throughout labor. Movement, eating, and drinking are not just “allowed” but ENCOURAGED!!
If this sounds like the birth experience you would prefer, call 210-725-0428 to schedule your birth center tour and meeting with a midwife. Appointments can also be self-scheduled below.