by Cristin Tighe, BWI Program Director & CCE(BWI)
Did you know that the position of the baby impacts how it can move during labor and the quality of the birth? Positioning is one of the major influences on the kind of labor that occurs and the way a new mom’s baby is born. The most favorable position is called occipito anterior (OA) prior to labor - which means the baby is head down and facing back. (Specifically, this means the baby's head is toward the mother’s cervix, their face toward her back and their back toward her belly.) This position reduces the likelihood of medical intervention at birth. It makes sense then to do all we can to get every baby into the best position to birth!
In BirthWorks, we teach professionals and parents all about Optimal Pelvic Positioning and four principles to optimize the baby’s position. This matters because:
- Birth is an engineering feat.
- Babies know how to be born and always go for the most available space.
- It is up to the mother to provide that space.
- Moving during pregnancy and labor allow the baby to move down and out.
- Being upright or on the side are optimal positions for birthing.
- Lying on the back limits pelvic movement and hinders progress of labor.
- During pregnancy, especially as the birth date closes in, the pelvis makes big changes inside that are not possible before or after pregnancy.
- Joints in the pelvis, only capable of small movements before, now move much more.
- Joints and tissues gain mobility and have more fluid due to hormone secretions.
Women’s bodies are built to birth, and the knowledge of how to do this is within us. The pelvis is just one area where this is clear. It is fascinating to look at the difference between male and female pelvises, and the different types of pelvises, and consider their design in terms of birth. Female pelvises have more space because of the position of the sacrum and tailbone, compared to male pelvises. Even as we consider the different types of pelvises, we know that there are three openings the baby moves through. Movement of mothers during labor helps babies move through each of these more easefully. Mothers appreciate having a more efficient childbirth experience, meaning less time, less complications, more ease, not getting exhausted unduly, and more healthful outcomes.
Mothers need to move their bodies in labor in order to allow the fullest opening of the pelvis as possible. Babies will then move into these spaces to turn and move through the pelvis. It is best when the mother relaxes and breathes slowly and deeply down into her body and pelvis, keeping her sacrum up, her knees below the waist and not too much spread of her legs. If you envision....the ideal position… it is NOT on the back with legs in stirrups. In fact, getting into a position very different from that, such as hands and knees is what helps the most! Then, the mom and baby can use gravity to their advantage, and the baby can move through the three openings in the pelvis efficiently. Babies are part of the labor process and their head molds to fit through, and they wiggle, kick, move and dance their way through the birth canal. We can have trust and faith in the pelvis, the mother’s body, and the baby navigating this journey. Our bodies have the wisdom to give birth.
We can use our knowledge of the pelvis to help the baby journey through the birth canal better. What we know from years of helping mothers do this at BirthWorks, is that it increases the chance of spontaneous labor, the baby emerges into the world with less trauma, and birth workers feel more satisfied with the job they do, because they helped guide and empower women to choose to work with the power of their bodies to give birth.