Babies follow a natural progression to settle into the final birth position. Well, not exactly final. So I call it, the starting position for labor. It almost always changes for baby to rotate through the pelvis.
Oxorn and Foote, Obstetric textbook authors, state that most babies are in position at 34 weeks gestation. This means that fewer babies will change position after 34 weeks. We assume that the moms in obstetric studies were not balancing out their tight muscles and short ligaments. They weren’t using Rest Smart positions themselves and they weren’t going to get body work and Chiropractic/Osteopathic.
“My doc isn’t concerned about the position until 36 weeks. You have plenty of time for your baby to move.”
If you spend any time on this website you will know that I don’t exactly agree with that statement. Babies don’t move at random. Their position matches the shape of the room within the uterus. This space is shaped by the abdominal and pelvic muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue (or fascia). The mobility and alignment of the pelvis also make a significant contribution. So, will the baby move into an ideal starting position for labor at 36 weeks? Depends on the room in the womb, I believe. Add balance and babies move in response to the room created by the release of tension or torsion in the soft tissues and joints. Tension comes from living in gravity. I don’t necessarily mean emotional tension. I mean tightness in the muscle, a muscle, several muscles. This effects mobility and alignment. We know that in the second trimester that babies are often laying sideways in a transverse lie. Some are oblique (diagonal).
Timeline for fetal position
26 weeks or so
Babies begin to move to a vertical lie, which means either head down or buttock down. A few more will wait to go vertical until 28 weeks and fewer at 30 weeks. 28-30 weeks, the breech (buttocks/pelvis coming into the mother’s pelvis before the head does) baby often flips head down. A few more will move head down by 32 weeks. Gentle balancing can be done throughout the pregnancy with the Daily and Weekly Activities listed on this site and other ways of moving in pregnancy. We also made the Daily Essentials Video, which leads you through 13 activities that can be done daily throughout pregnancy to bring balance for comfort & may help you have an easier, shorter birth.
You may like to get more active about body balancing if baby isn’t head down.
By 32 weeks
If baby is breech or sideways I suggest getting serious about self-care techniques, such as the
If you have a history of difficult pregnancies or births, cesarean or babies in positions that are challenging, then you might want to get serious earlier. Start early, even before pregnancy if you have a history of car accidents, sports accidents, or work and activities that twist you and make a jolt or sudden stop, like soccer, baseball, running, massage therapy, Chiropractic adjustments from the side, lifting patients, throwing bales of hay, that sort of thing… If baby is breech at 32 weeks get started with flipping activities in earnest and add professional body work no later than 34 weeks. – unless of course, you don’t know you should have done this because you’ve been told it doesn’t matter until 36 weeks. See the Breech Timeline of when to do what in the Breech Section under Baby Positions. If baby is transverse at 32 weeks, read this article and do the activities listed there.
At 32-35 weeks
Many babies still switch sides. You may feel the weight and mass of the baby switch, but is it your womb leaning or is it baby changing positions? Tell by where the baby kicks, if that changes, too, then baby changed positions. If baby doesn’t switch sides to kick, then the womb and the baby inside it are simply leaning over. Ligaments around the womb are loose. Wear a pregnancy belt for walking and doing an activity like house and yard work. By 32-35 Weeks, if baby favors only your right, and kicks towards your left:
Don’t panic, but don’t ignore it. There is a gracious center of activity without stress. May we all find it.
By 36 weeks
We expect baby to settle in, change position once or twice a week if there is room, if not, we are hoping baby favors the left by now.
During the 38th week
Many first time mothers’ babies engage. If balance and flexibility are well established this may be less important to have happen. If baby has fingers wiggling in front, add balance. The lack of engagement is an issue for the posterior baby in starting labor or keeping labor going. At 40 weeks, take a lovely walk and bath. Do something unrelated to pregnancy. Enjoy yourself and don’t worry about when the baby is coming. Give yourself a break.
At 41.5 weeks and more
Serious focus on fetal position and engagement takes up your day but again, be chill about it. Just be focused on 3 x a day doing the engagement activities. If baby is truly in a good position, and many providers say so without knowing much about fetal position in detail, then you only have to deal with the politics of labor onset and not likely the actual challenge of helping baby engage to start labor. Walk and make love. Changes are a’coming.
Labor wants baby engaged before labor will open the cervix. Since engagement is a result of fetal flexion and fit in the brim and an aligned brim makes engagement easier, balance and engagement activities are useful in early labor. A start and stop labor pattern is a clear sign that engagement help is needed. Flexibility and softness help gravity be more effective. Once a series of balancing activities have been done, gravity helps labor progress. In a fast labor, just hang on and try to relax. It’s not likely that you will need to concern yourself with baby positions. You may want to get low to the ground if baby is coming so fast that you aren’t prepared with someone there to catch! In a long labor, its all about softening the way and moving the pelvis at the level where baby waits to pass by. Using techniques randomly gets random results. When baby needs helping engaging, Abdominal Lift and Tuck is specific. When baby needs help turning from facing the side to face the back, and get lower than 0 Station, or halfway, then Sidelying Release and the standing lunge or a lunge in bed or resting the leg over a peanut ball. When baby needs help at the outlet, the nurse or midwife sees a bit of the head, but labor isn’t bringing the baby lower very fast, open the outlet with a squat, an anterior pelvic tilt or put your knees closer together and your feet further apart and push in that position. Please consider the birth stool!
Lots of labor lore and techniques are discussed in Spinning Babies; Parent Class. Stream it to your device, download, or buy the DVD before labor starts so you can get familiar with it. Enjoy your labor! It’s amazing to open up and let a brand new human being into the world!