Read this article if you are hoping for a smooth, progressing labor and want to do some activities early in labor to be reassured. Or, if labor doesn’t start or progress as you expect.
The surges of the womb, commonly called contractions, help position the baby by rotating and flexing baby’s head — if the muscles and ligaments don’t interfere by some significant tightness (or looseness).
- Sifting with the woven Rebozo (Mexican scarf) between contractions.
- Do a forward-leaning inversion during 1-3 contractions (Three if you are in a long labor pattern; one if you have given birth before or aren’t sure you need help to progress, but just want to do something).
- Do a sidelying release (pelvic floor release) on both sides.
Sisters have girlfriends; here are some more effective balance activities:
Supporting balance for women who are lying down is easy with a diaphragmatic release (aka, abdominal release). This is a myofascial technique that a birth partner can learn quickly.
Women who are standing can have a similar myofascial release with the standing sacral release (standing release).
Another technique for balance is Dip the Hip.
When a poorly-positioned baby is too low in a tight pelvis to rotate to a better position, we can soften the muscles and ligaments of the pelvis to give the pelvis more flexibility. This may allow baby to come down.
Here’s an example of the importance of balance when it comes time to push:
I wanted to share with you an experience at a birth. VBAC mom whose first birth had gone to c-section after 3 hours of pushing. She seems to be in good physical shape so I was curious about the real ‘why’…. As she was in early labor I … noticed that she had a distinct s- shape at the crease of her buttocks. I also began to observe as she moved around that she possibly had an android pelvis. Of course, I was not there to diagnosis her so I just did what I do, I am a doula so just supporting. She had no back labor at all but when the time came for pushing she immediately put my hand on her sacrum and asked me to apply pressure. She pushed mostly in the side-lying position (did not want to try the side lying release at that point although we had done it before) and each time she had the urge to push she would move my hand to a place on her sacrum and occasionally lower lumbar.
Baby was born vaginally. Later the Doctor made a point to say to me on several occasions, “What you were doing was REALLY helpful”,
I am so thankful for your class allowing me to become observant of more of the structural physiology of birth and I really think that the doctor saw something in her pelvis but didn’t want to say it directly. – Allison, Doula, 2014
Gravity, its not just a good idea, it’s the law.
Gravity and Movement does help and will be enough for some women. Other women will need help to overcome a tight muscle or short ligament to achieve a natural labor. When getting out of bed and moving isn’t enough, go back to Balance!
You can rest using gravity, too, you don’t have to stand all the time! Read Rest Smart to find how to rest in ways that actually help labor to continue while you rest. Laying with your top leg lifted by a peanut ball is a clever example.
Ready to be upright? How about sitting on a firm birthing ball or a birth stool? Does the birth stool allow your hips to be level with your knees? Don’t have a birth stool? Oh, yes you do! Every home and hospital room has a porcelain birthing stool. Sit for three contractions and then stand for one. This keeps swelling in your tender places to a minimum. Sit again for three and stand for one. Is it hot and humid summer time? Stand for three, then, to give more time for fluid to move in your tissues before sitting again.
When you are up, make sure you’re standing with knees soft (not locked) and leaning over a friend, a counter-top, etc., for support.
Movement helps reduce pain and can help baby go lower.
When you do feel the need to move, get up! Move around. Be vertical. It’s surprising how often women find being up and moving makes labor more manageable than lying on their hips or their back in bed.
You’ve released some constriction by bringing your body into better balance. You are being mindful about gravity-friendly positions. Now you may need to move your pelvis to help your baby move down.
- Do circles on a birth ball.
- Put some music on. Put some meaning into those circles!
- Pelvic rocking. Is baby high? Flatten your lower back during a contraction.
- Grab your doula and dance the hula!
- Do some belly dancer moves!
If movement doesn’t work, see if baby is truly engaged. Do those techniques.
Then, return to balancing activities. See the article on long labors in the “What to do when….” article on how to overcome a stall in labor. Better yet, possibly prevent a long labor using the resources in Professional Help.
Want more on the 3 Principles? Consider becoming a Subscriber to the nerd portion of this website.
First Principle: Balance your uterus.
By releasing the chronic tension caused by sitting in chairs in school and at the computer, old falls, accidents, etc., you can relax your broad and round ligaments to let the baby rotate past them in labor. You and a friend can do the myofascial releases under the Techniques section. Look for the techniques with the word “release” in them.
The myofascial releases:
Rebozo Manteado (Sifting with mother on hands and knees and helper standing behind and over)
This can be a daily relaxation exercise that reduces stress and the strain on the lower back. It helps put the mother in a calm state of mind for a while. Very enjoyable and let’s the broad ligament have a vacation. This can really help fetal position when its repeated in pregnancy and when done in a variety of ways in labor.
The Fantastic Four here at Spinning Babies are our primo Myofascial releases. I’ll add leg circles another day to make 5!
Most first-time mothers will find that the inversion helps to align the uterus with the pelvis. This may help fetal position, hip or back ache. Relax your shoulders with some gentle rolls and shoulder “opening” before trying this unique solution. Don’t go upside down if you are at risk of stroke, have high blood pressure or other medical reasons not to be upside down.
This has some very specific guidelines to get the results you seek. Take your time learning to do this right!
A wonder for pregnant women and their partners who snore. Give it a try and help each other out! Lots of benefits, including the chance of a more mobile sacrum and more comfort immediately. Don’t stand still for this release, see the instructions.
Increase your Bank Balance by getting professional care
If you’ve given birth before, and labor went well, labor is likely to go well again. If it was hard, then these techniques may make a wonderful difference. Labor contractions may help reposition your baby by softening the lower uterine segment over time. Changing your positions in labor can be quite helpful.
Some women, however, may need a professional body worker to achieve the ease in birth they desire. I like to look for someone who knows myofascial release and therapuetic massage for pregnancy (not Pregnancy Massage for relaxation) and Chiropractic or Osteopathic. Acupuncture, homeopathy, medical hypnosis and other avenues have been studied and shown beneficial!
See Professionals in the Techniques section to see what other help is available. If doing the daily and weekly activities hasn’t worked within three weeks, than seek professional assistance. Sooner if you are due within the month.
Second Principle: Gravity
Apply gravity using Maternal Positioning
When your uterine tone is made flexible the maternal positioning techniques you are using will be much more effective.
In labor, kneeling and leaning over a ball is a good choice. Let your knees remain further from your belly, rather than folded up near the ball and your belly. Don’t worry about lying mostly on your left side. The right side is good, too, unless your providers tells you otherwise. Changing your position every 30 minutes to 2 hours is best (Let a sleeping woman snore! Doulas and Dads, don’t wake a woman to have her change position unless it is medically necessary).
There are descriptions of what to do to help labor progress in the category “In Labor” under the menu link, “Start.”
Third Principle: Movement (of the Mother)
When the baby is active it is a good time to get down on your hands and knees and do 40 pelvic rocks. It may even be a good time to do the inversion (though not shortly after eating a meal!)
Swimming in deep warm water is helpful, too, since a submerged belly is easier for baby to adjust position in. It would be hard to time this to baby’s active time unless you noticed a daily pattern with a reliable active time. Driving to the pool may put baby back to sleep, however!
Pelvic mobility may increase the chance for baby to rotate to LOT and then LOA as descent occurs.
If the baby doesn’t change position in pregnancy, doing these things will help the pelvis be more mobile in labor so baby can rotate more easily by the action of the contractions.