Toward the end of pregnancy, midwives and OBs alike start to wonder about the positioning of the baby. If baby is breech (head up) or transverse (laying sideways) at the time of labor, a vaginal birth is generally not going to happen. Only a very few providers will attempt a breech delivery, so in these situations a cesarean section is performed.
It’s a somewhat debateable topic, but my experience as a doula has shown that the position of the baby in labor does impact the labor. A posterior baby (one that is facing up instead of toward mom’s back) usually causes labor to be longer, sometimes causes back pain (the dreaded “back labor”), and may make pushing more difficult. There are some other variations of normal that may impact labor, but what I want to talk about is how mom can help her baby settle into an optimal position before labor starts.
One of my favorite resources about fetal positioning is Spinning Babies. The website has a lot of information about what to do during pregnancy as well as what to do if your baby is in a less than optimal position. I highly recommend reading the information on the 3 principles of pregnancy.
So what are some specific things you can do during pregnancy to help baby settle into a good position?
1.) Sit and relax with good posture. Slouching or leaning can encourage less than optimal fetal positioning by encouraging certain areas of your body to hold tension. We want everything to be balanced. Sit with your keens lower than the level of your hips, keep your belly forward like a hammock for your baby, and when you are sitting be sure to sit on your booty bones and not leaning into your sacrum.
2.) Walk every day and remain active. At the very least, go for a walk every day for 20-30 minutes. If you have a workout routine that you want to stick to, perfect! Keep at that routine. Just make sure that whatever you are doing allows your body to be balanced and not holding tension on one side or the other. Walking is a good exercise because not only does it allow your muscles to lengthen and relax, but it helps build stamina and strength in the muscles you will be using during labor.
3.) Stretch. Do some cat cow stretches, some child’s poses, and stretch out your body to relieve tension and restore balance. Neck rolls, shoulder rolls, ham string stretches… basically whatever you want to stretch, stretch it! Pay particular attention to areas of your body where you’re holding tension– these are the areas you will find difficult to relax during labor. Practice finding ways to relax those areas of your body. This skill will be helpful in labor!
Those are my top three things to do to encourage optimal fetal positioning. Doing these things won’t guarantee a good position, but doing them certainly won’t hurt and may help.