Expectant mothers, myself included, are always on the look-out for ways to make our pregnancies easier and labour more enjoyable. What can be done during pregnancy to help on a practical level? Well, one very important aspect that will help in pregnancy and assist in labour is the position that the baby is in.
Optimal Foetal Positioning is a theory developed by midwife Jean Sutton and antenatal teacher Pauline Scott in the 1990’s, who discovered that a mother’s postures and the way she moves during pregnancy can influence the way a baby is positioned in the pelvis at term thus having a major effect on labour and birth. It is well known that the breech position is certainly not ideal for vaginal delivery. However, did you know that there are even better positions for your baby to be in than simply head down? In the optimal position the baby is head down, facing the mother’s back, with its own back on one side (usually the left) of the front of the tummy. This allows for smoother passage of the baby through the birth canal as it allows for the baby to tuck its chin to the chest so that the smallest part of the head presents first. This ideal position is called an occiput anterior (the baby’s occiput or back of head is facing the mothers front) and results in an easier labour. Occiput posterior presentations – where the back of the baby’s head is facing the mother’s back – is more likely to cause a long and painful labour. Also, it can often necessitate the involvement of instrumentation or may often result in a C section being necessary. All the things you are trying to avoid.
What can be done to achieve the best position for my baby?
To achieve this optimum position the baby needs to have plenty of room in the womb to move around. There are lots of things you, as an expectant mother, can do to help with this – starting in the first trimester. Firstly ensure that your pelvis is in good condition, meaning it is balanced and symmetrical and not twisted. If you are suffering with low back pain, pubic pain or pelvic discomfort, there is most likely a problem with your pelvis. Chiropractic care is an excellent gentle and non-invasive way of resolving such issues. Ensure your chiropractor is registered with the Chiropractic Association of Ireland and has experience treating pregnant ladies.
Once your pelvis is a-lined and symmetrical you need to guide the baby’s heaviest part, which is its back, to the lower part of your abdomen. This is particularly important in the third trimester.
1) It is imperative that in later pregnancy you avoid sitting positions where your knees are higher than your hips, for example sitting on a soft couch. Use your birthing ball to sit on as this provides a perfect seating posture.
2) Do not cross your legs and do not sit with your legs up.
3) Sleep on your left side and not your back.
4) Swimming on your front also helps. In later pregnancy avoid breast stroke legs, use a kicking leg action instead as breast stroke encourages the baby to engage.
5) Avoid deep squatting until the baby is in the correct position, as this also encourages the baby to engage.
6) Pre-natal yoga is excellent for helping with positioning. Find an instructor who is qualified to teach pregnant ladies.
These little tips will go a long way to help get your baby in its best pose to enter the world.
Ellen Finnegan is a registered Chiropractor working from her clinic in Clane Co. Kildare. She has 11 years experience treating pregnant women and infants. For more information take a look at our pregnancy clinic page