Despite the prevalence of lying in a hospital bed during labor, the pain of labor can be exacerbated by lying down. When it comes to labor planning, be sure that you are able to move as you need to help reduce your pain and anxiety and help your labor progress.
Restlessness is normal; labor is hard work and you’ve been preparing for this for months. So, what moves can help you during labor when it comes to easing some pain, helping you feel in control of your labor and helping you get the right support from your birthing team? Here’s a look at some alternatives to laying down during the process.
1. Squatting for Delivery
If your partner is strong enough to help you balance, you can squat opposite from them with your knees wide. You will probably need more support than just one person; another option is to squat against a wall or on the floor in front of a sofa.
Squatting widens the pelvic opening, reduces pressure on your back and increases oxygen flow to the pelvic muscles. Some hospitals offer squatting bars at the end of the bed so you can move easily in and out of the squatting position. This gives you a break and lets your birthing team check your vitals and check on the baby.
While some women can deliver from a squatting position, it may not work for the actual delivery. If this is something you want to try to use in the delivery room, talk with your obstetrician, doula or birthing partner to incorporate squatting into your delivery preparations.
2. Sitting to Speed Laboring
Sitting on a ball or sitting backwards on a chair during the early laboring stages can help you stretch the pelvic opening while resting. If you’re working with a ball, be certain to use a ball that’s the right height and work with your birthing partner to get on and off of it. When you are selecting your birthing ball, keep in mind that typically your knees should be about four inches lower than your hips when you sit on it. As a general rule, if you are under 5-foot, 4-inches you’ll want a ball that is 55 cm. If you are 5-foot, 4-inches to 5-foot, 10-inches you’ll want a ball that is 65 cm. If you are taller than 5-foot, 10-inches you’ll want to use a ball that is 75 cm.
For the actual delivery, you can also use a birthing stool. These are low chairs with openings that resemble a commode. From a seated position on a low birthing stool, you can expand your pelvis, use your legs to ground your push and curl forward, with the help of your partner, to intensify the push.
3. Get on All Fours
If you’re familiar with yoga this position may be quite familiar to you. Kneeling on all fours allows for you to have stability and can ease back pain while helping the baby rotate into the optimal position for delivery. This position can help open the pelvis for delivery and if you find your arms get tired from holding yourself up, leaning on a smaller ball or chair can be an option as well.
4. Kneeling to Reduce Back Pain
Kneeling during labor offers several benefits to mom and baby. If you’re experiencing back labor, intense lower back pain during contractions, this position will greatly reduce the pressure and may help your baby to turn if needed.
You can kneel against a birthing ball, against the head of your hospital bed or against your partner. This is also a good position for your partner to easily rub the muscles in your back for added relief.
5. Left Side-Lying for a Resting Option
It may be a lying down position, but lying on your side during labor can help get oxygen to the baby and serves as a good resting position, especially if you have elevated blood pressure. This type of position is good for women choosing to use an epidural and can help make contractions more effective, or slow a birth that is moving too quickly. On the downside, there won’t be any help from gravity this route.
6. Standing to Let Gravity Help
Standing is critical to moving the baby down, and walking will help distract and energize you during the early stages of labor. As labor progresses, walking may not be possible, but you can still stand and lean against your partner or a wall for support.
From a standing position, you can easily move into a squat or sit down on a chair to open the pelvis and stretch those delivery muscles.
Laboring is hard work. While discomfort is normal, the anxiety caused by feeling stuck in bed is not. Work with your delivery team before labor to make sure that you’ll be allowed to get up and move as you’re able and as you need. Every woman’s body is different; a traditional flat-on-your-back delivery position may not work for you. Listen to your body and once the delivery is complete, enjoy your new baby and celebrate all your hard work!