Yep—I’ve never met a pregnant person who preferred a three day induction over an efficient eight hour, “let’s do this” sort of birth. But most people seem to think there’s little they can do to help ensure they have a smooth labor. Yes, there are things to do to help endure the intensity of labor (breathe, relax, etc.)—but how fast it goes is entirely up to Mother Nature and the pitocin drip, right?
Enter the concept of fetal positioning. As most of you can do doubt appreciate— it’s a tight fit between fetus and pelvis to make way for the exit. Which way your little one is facing, does he have his chin tucked, or head tilted, or, for goodness sakes a hand up by his face—these things can make a difference in how smoothly labor goes.
“He was facing the wrong way and wouldn’t come out.”
I cannot tell you how many times I've heard this-- followed by "They had to do a Cesarean"
The overall C-section rate among first-time mothers was 30.8%. in 2013. More than 1 in 3 (35%) of those Cesareans were due to a diagnosis of “failure to progress,” or slow progress in labor (source).
Optimally, at the beginning of labor a fetus is in the LOA position- Left Occiput Anterior, with the back of it’s head towards the mothers’ left front side (Remember, many people can and do manage through life with less than optimal conditions—but by striving for optimal, hopefully we can do better). Generally speaking then, one might then feel general hardness/ firmness all along the left side of the belly (baby’s spine and rump) and kicks, wiggles and overall more squishiness on the right side. (See here for a much more complete description of how to assess the position of your fetus in utero.)
There are lots of reasons your child may not be in the ideal position. The fetus fits into the space it’s got available. Regular daily living, such as sitting in a chair at a desk all day long, or carrying a toddler on your hip regularly, can interfere with the overall balance and tightness or looseness of various ligaments in the pelvis and uterus, resulting in an unbalanced space that makes it challenging for the fetus to be well positioned.
So what to do?
Spinning Babies founder Gail Tully encourages expectant parents to focus on three basic principles: Balance (FIRST), Gravity and Movement. I suggest you start with the Daily Activities listed on the Spinning Babies website (so named because babies rotate on their way down through pelvis, or rotate on their way from bottom down (breech) to head down). Regular visits with a chiropractor trained in Webster Techniques throughout pregnancy can help bring balance to the body as well. Also, consider a prenatal yoga class (after consultation with your care provider about any concerns with physical activity).
There are numerous activities and positions that may be helpful in labor in helping your little one to move down through the pelvis (and out—come on OUT little one!). In addition to the abundance of ideas on the Spinning Babies website, your doula will remember these things while you deal with the intensity of labor, and breathing through contractions.
I’m excited to share that I’ve just finished putting together a three hour class for parents to cover techniques in pregnancy and labor that may help in having a faster easier labor- Get That Baby Out! This workshop covers information that is only lightly touched on in traditional childbirth education-- and there will be plenty of time to practice techniques with an expert.
The first workshop will be held Tuesday April 11 from 6-9pm, at an introductory rate of $50, with additional workshops being held quarterly. I suggest taking this class in early second trimester, but it can be taken at anytime in pregnancy. You can visit the class website (still polishing it up to look good, but registration IS open) to learn more and register for the workshop locally (North Seattle).