Your baby has an active role in her birth. She must rotate and tuck, hold and kick her body in certain ways to be born.
These movements, called cardinal movements, are instinctive to babies and differ for babies in different positions. Our babies and bodies birth quickest and safest when the baby is head-down, facing the mother's back, crown first. But, sometimes babies need help taking up the most ideal position. Breech babies have their own cardinal movements to be born safely.
Babies who are lined up optimally for birth come out faster and easier than those who aren't positioned perfectly.
Many cesareans happen because the baby is not able to get in the best position for birth.
There are a few different pelvic shapes or types. Some pelvic shapes require that the baby take a certain, optimal position, while others can accommodate a number of different ways out. Don't worry too much about pelvic shape unless you already know yours is unusual or your babies have trouble descending.
For many women, their babies can be born backwards (posterior), upside-down (breech), face first, or with with their head tilted a bit (ascynclitic), but it's typically a harder or more complicated labor and birth.
Modern life has us using our body in a way that confuses or restricts the baby's movement.
Here is what you can do during pregnancy to provide for the best chance and good alignment and faster, easier birth.
- The best sitting position is with your knees below your hips, your belly leaning forward, back straight.
- This gives baby the most room and makes a nice hammock for the baby to fall into.
- Avoid the couch and recliner.
- Try the exercise ball.
- Try tailor sitting on the floor, perhaps with your back up against the couch.
- Kneel on the floor and lean onto a bean bag or big cushion.
- Sit backwards on a kitchen chair.
- Sit on a kitchen chair and lean on the table, knees apart, belly hanging.
- Adjust the car seat so that you are sitting more upright and forward.
- Consider using small pillows under your bum and at the small of your back to support good posture.
- Spend time on all fours.
- Do various yoga poses. A daily session of cat/cow (go easy) or simple pelvic tucks and hip circles is really good for loosening everything up.
- Wash the floor on your hands and knees.
- Crawl around with the kids for awhile.
- Go for a walk, preferably outside, every day.
- The movement of your hips and all the ligaments and fascia inside when walking helps the baby settle into a good position for birth.
- Walking is healthy for both of you, body and soul.
- Lean forward during Braxton-Hicks and early labor contractions.
- Forward-leaning usually increases the effectiveness of your surges.
- It also helps baby maneuver into the best position.
See a chiropractor regularly in pregnancy, especially if you are having any pain or are concerned about position.
A great resource for more information about ideal positioning for baby is Spinning Babies. You can find many specific exercises to help make birth easier and lots more about the science behind it.
Some midwives and doulas know tips and tricks to help a baby who is having trouble descending get into a better position. You may want to ask your doula and midwife about her experience with fetal positioning exercises and how she can help you during labor if you need to get baby into a better position for birth.
An ideal fetal alignment checklist comes with my Breech Baby Handbook, available here to help parents of breech babies make decisions about their care.
Ideal fetal alignment takes stress off of you and your baby!
Happy Birth Day!
Cover image credit: Ariane Hunter via Flickr/CC