Let's Chat Positioning - Prepping Your Body And Baby For Birth
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Something that has been on my mind a lot lately as I cruise through my third trimester is positioning - there is so much to learn and so much to share. I'm going to keep it real simple and let you in on what I know about optimal positioning for our bodies and babies before and during labor and birth.
This is something that's often overlooked, and not really discussed by OBs. Your OB will check your baby either by feel or by ultrasound throughout the third trimester to check your baby's positioning in your belly. By about 35 weeks it is ideal to have baby head down, and in the optimal position for birth. But don't panic if your baby is not head down yet! Babies can literally move all the way up until birth, and they can even move positions completely DURING labor!
What is often overlooked is that there are things we can do during our pregnancies, and during labor that will encourage and guide baby into the best position for birth. If you are pregnant, no matter what trimester, keep on reading... these are the tips and tricks that have been shared with me by multiple birth workers that can help! My mind was blown as I learned about some of this throughout my first pregnancy, so I want to share something that is typically not discussed or mentioned unless you deep dive into your own research... So here is what I know!
If you found out that your baby is breech, don't panic! Typically, your OB or midwife will just discuss with you an ECV (External Cephalic Version Procedure) or prep you mentally for a Caesarean section. Both of these are safe options to get us to our goal of having a healthy baby. Your OB will guide you through what each procedure looks like, and will come up with a plan for the safest birth for you and your baby. In this post, I will not be discussing either of these. Your doctor will guide you through these if your baby is still breech closer to your due date! What I am sharing with you is what you can do to PREVENT a breech baby, and TURN a baby that is not in optimal position to avoid these procedures altogether. And I want to remind you, I'm not here to give you medical advice! Talk to and trust your doctor's recommendations. These are just tips and small things we can do to give ourselves and our babies the most optimal, safe, and smooth birth experience. And a smooth birth experience and optimal baby position typically means a quicker labor!
The most optimal position for your baby to be in during labor and birth is the Occiput Anterior Position - in this position baby is head down, facing your back. There are other positions in which baby can safely be delivered vaginally, but often other positions lead to a longer and more painful labor and birth.
Here are some things you can do to align your body and baby optimally for birth - These can be done all throughout pregnancy and while in labor!
LEAN FORWARD - This is the most simple, and important thing you can do throughout your pregnancy and during your labor. I had no idea this was even a thing during my first pregnancy, until the very end as I neared delivery. A trusted lactation consultant I knew shared with me the best thing to do during labor and in the third trimester was to spend time leaning forward. This looks like getting on all fours, doing "Cat-Cows" in yoga (I love to do Cat-Cows when I first wake up and before bed, it helps to open up your pelvis and encourages baby into an optimal position for birth), and sitting forward whenever you are eating, watching tv, or relaxing. Basically anytime you are sitting, try to sit forward! A birth ball is great to have for lounging around the house at night. I know that it's real tempting to just lounge on your back on the couch at the end of a long day. But if you stack some pillows on your lap, or a table or ottoman in front of you, and can lean forward onto that... doing that consistently will really help your baby's position! It is so important to avoid the “couch slouch” position for long periods of time! (Ok I’m definitely guilty of this, but I try to be mindful!) And when you go into labor, and throughout the labor process, our instincts often take us into forward leaning positions during each contraction. There is definitely a reason for this. When in doubt, just lean forward!
CHECK YOUR POSTURE - Just checking in with your posture throughout the day can make a huge difference. Whenever you are sitting (in a chair, in the car, on the couch, at a desk, etc) try to sit with your pelvis tilted forward. Think about straightening your spine, sitting upright, and tilting your pelvis slightly forward. Think about it in terms of if your pelvis were a cup of coffee, tilt it forward and visualize pouring the coffee in front of you... not sure if that makes sense to anyone else but it's a good visual for me! And anytime you are walking or standing, try to really engage your deep core muscles with each breath, engage your pelvic floor, and stand up tall. The more we hunch our backs or slouch, or release our posture, it restricts the room that baby has to move around and can promote some unfortunate positions for labor. And our backs and hips will thank us for good posture! (Pregnancy back and hip pain is SO real right now in my third trimester!)
STRETCH AND MOVE YOUR BODY - This is a great way to prepare our bodies for the intense work that is labor and delivery. But more specifically, a few stretches that really help to open up your pelvis involve both internal and external rotation. My two favorite stretches for the pelvis are "butterfly" position (soles of the feet together, knees out wide, sitting upright and/or gently stretching forward) and "fallen bridge" (either laying on your back or propping yourself up with your hands, bring your knees wider than hip distance and plant your feet firmly on the ground a good distance away from your bottom, knock your knees in together and feel the sensation in your hips). Also like I mentioned earlier, "Cat-Cows" are so good for preparing your pelvis for birth.
Here is a quick "Cat - Cow" flow to try!
Start on all fours with a neutral spine. As you inhale, drop your belly towards the earth, lift your chin to the sky and gaze slightly up. Squeeze your shoulder blades behind you and lift your tailbone to the sky. This is "Cow" pose. As you exhale, tuck your belly button into your spine, and create a "C" curve with your back. Feel space open up in your armpits, and press firmly into the palms of your hands. This is "Cat" pose. Flow through this as many times as you like, with every inhale moving into Cow pose and every exhale tucking into Cat pose. I love doing this in the morning when I first wake up. It feels so good on my pregnant back and hips!
Another yoga pose I LOVE to do during pregnancy and even during labor is "Malasana". This pose really works wonders in creating space in your pelvis for birth, and it also helps to stretch and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Begin in a forward fold position, with your feet hip distance or wider (possibly a little wider than your yoga mat, do what feels most natural to you) and your feet pointed slightly outward into an external rotation that feels good to you. On an inhale, drop your hips low into a squatting position, press your palms together at heart center, and allow your elbows to press into your inner thighs, deepening the stretch. You can hold this for several breaths, or however long it feels good to you. Try to engage your pelvic floor muscles while you are in this pose, and slow your breath. For more support, place a cushion or pillow under your bottom and rest your tailbone on the supportive cushion, taking the work out of your legs. This can also be a great "opening" position while you are in labor. Try to make your way into this position during a contraction if it feels good to you, and stay however long your body tells you to stay. This can help open up your pelvis, and even encourage your cervix to dilate quicker.
SLEEP ON YOUR SIDE WITH A PILLOW BETWEEN YOUR LEGS - This is kind of the position we are forced to sleep in anyway during pregnancy, but a thick pillow or pregnancy pillow placed between your legs all the way to your feet can help SO much! This will help to keep your pelvis properly aligned and stable, and it's also more comfortable. During my first pregnancy I kind of resisted the pillow, because it was so big in our bed! But I have noticed that with my second pregnancy, I NEED the pillow! My hips have been FEELING this pregnancy... some days I feel like my body feels old and frail, and my waddle is no joke! The pillow support and a good yoga practice are what make all the difference for me.
USE SPINNING BABIES AS A RESOURCE - Go to www.spinningbabies.com for a lot more tips for turning a breech baby and promoting optimal positions for your baby throughout pregnancy and labor. They are an amazing resource and there is so much information to share.
I hope you have found this helpful mamas! This is just something we don't talk about much during our pregnancies, and I think it is absolutely worth sharing. I'm so thankful someone shared it with me.
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So much love mamas,
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