Is lying on a bed REALLY the best way to give birth? MM looks at the options open to you today….
Take your positions!
You may actually think that during labour you’ll be most comfortable lying on the bed. After all, millions of women have given birth in that position for centuries, haven’t they? While there’s nothing wrong with lying prostrate on a bed, the simple fact is that, if you are upright, gravity can help to push your baby’s head down on to your cervix to help it open. Naturally, this will help your baby’s progress through your pelvis.
Research has shown that lying down in labour can also cause:
- More painful contractions, making an epidural more likely.
- A longer labour, since contractions may be less effective.
- A higher chance of having a Caesarean.
- Narrower passage through the pelvis for your baby.
So, with studies revealing that keeping as upright as possible during labour will not only help you to cope with your contractions and help your baby to cope better during labour, here are our favourite birthing positions!
The concept of sitting or squatting during labour is centuries old – and widely practised in many cultures. The use of the birthing stool is also quite old. It’s designed to bear a considerable amount of weight and pressure and is usually low to the ground so that you can plant your feet firmly on the ground. Perhaps most importantly, the stool has a hole in the middle, which allows the midwife to monitor the progress of the labour, and also provides a space for the baby to slide through. A birthing stool will help keep you upright while you’re pushing and will reduce your risk of having an episiotomy.
Using a birth ball can help you adopt different upright positions, which can help you to labour effectively. Ways to use your birthing ball during labour include:
- Sitting astride the ball and rocking your pelvis from side to side or back and forth.
- Leaning on your birth ball from a kneeling position on the floor.
- Leaning over your ball from a standing position, with the ball on the bed or another surface.
Standing supported squat
This position can realign your pelvis to increase the opening by up to fifteen per cent. It also allows you to be supported by your standing or sitting partner, the wall or a squat bar and takes advantage of gravity in the process. As a result, your contractions may feel less painful and more productive. The movement causes changes in your pelvic joints, helping your baby through the birth canal. Just make sure you have a strong partner!
The main benefit of the semi-sitting position is that it’s comfortable and makes good use of gravity. The position works well in hospital delivery suites and provides your midwife or consultant with easy access to foetal heart tones. The only downsides are that the position puts some stress on your perineum but it’s still less than when you’re lying on your back!
Again, squatting encourages rapid descent for your baby and uses gravity as a force. It also allows you freedom to shift your weight for comfort and allows for excellent perineal access. Your thighs will keep your baby well aligned. As with any upright position, of course, this position can be often tiring and it can be difficult at times for your midwife or consultant to hear the foetal heart tones.
You may wonder what the difference is between lying in bed and side lying, but this is actually an excellent position for labour because it helps to get oxygen to your baby. It’s a good resting position for you and is very helpful if you have raised blood pressure. It also works well with epidural if you have to have one.
Standing during labour may actually speed the process up! The position helps create a pushing urge and can help to get oxygen to your baby. Contractions may also be more effective and less painful.
Leaning or kneeling forward with support
Again, this position uses gravity and also allows for use of a birthing ball. The position means that your baby is well aligned in your pelvis and it can help relieve backache (particularly if your partner is helping relieve your back pain). It may be more restful than standing and allows you to rock your pelvis. It also puts less strain on your wrists and arms.
Knee to chest
This position is excellent for avoiding tearing or episiotomies and it’s also a very good delivery position for a large baby. It assists with rotation of your baby, if it’s required and will also take pressure off haemorrhoids, if you’ve suffered with them during pregnancy (see page 40). The only drawback is that it’s hard for you to see what’s going on!