If someone told me when I was pregnant, that the way I sit or stand can affect the length of my labour...I'd be listening to them with each cell of my body! And that is what I'm here to share with you today.
As well as the type of labour you could have, your posture alone can also have an unbelievable influence on the levels of comfort / pain in your pregnant (and postnatal) body.
So let's talk about labour first. Having a short and active labour (which is what we all want, right?!) is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, requiring different pieces to slot in nicely together. Your posture and lifestyle during pregnancy is one of those crucial puzzle pieces. It's never talked about, which blows my mind, so let's get into it.
Something as simple as slouching back into your chair in the evenings, during those last important few weeks of your pregnancy, can have a huge impact on how your baby lies inside you. Our lifestyle does NOT encourage baby to get into a 'good' birthing position. What is a good position? Well, head down, and having baby lying with their back pointing out to the world, with their head flexed (chin to chest), slightly lying to the left-hand side of your body. Why does that matter? It matters because when lying in this optimal position, the narrowest part of their head navigates through the widest bony part of the pelvis and the birth canal...basically that's the easiest exit route. When we sit a lot, and slouch back, we are creating a lovely hammock for baby to lie back into - i.e. their heaviest part of their body - their spine - will rotate and lie 'back to back'. So, in essence, their face will be looking out to the world. Not only is that not an ideal birthing position, it also can lead to a lot of pressure and back pain.
Image thanks to Spinning Babies
If your baby is not in a good birthing position, I'll tell you now, you are making it super hard on yourself. Your labour can increase in length, and it can feel a lot more uncomfortable.
The good news, is there are lots of things you can do to help encourage your baby into a great position, while pregnant:
1. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, sit mindfully, with your hips ABOVE your knees. This is actually quite hard to do, so I recommend you get yourself an exercise/birthing ball. It will be the best 20 bucks you will ever spend, as you can use it all during your labour too...and to get strong again once baby has arrived. So get one that is big enough for you and pump it up fully. If you are over about 5ft 7 inches in old money, make sure you get at least a 65cm ball.
2. Do plenty of exercise. Late in pregnancy is not the time to stop exercising, unless you have been medically advised otherwise. Strong walking (a couple of miles a day) and Yoga are a brilliant combination. During your Yoga, try to incorporate lots of Hands & Knees positions, and hip opening poses...this will all help with baby's position.
3. Watch your posture throughout the day. As well as being careful as to how you are sitting, you should be mindful of your standing position too. Try to spread your weight evenly through both feet. You'll notice at times that you'll be standing more on one foot than the other. Or when you are sitting, you might cross your legs. Try to sit or stand on both feet properly...it sounds ridiculous, but I challenge you to notice it during the day! If you have a toddler, you can try to minimize the lifting (which is hard, I know!!), or try to at least use both hips equally!
When it comes to the labour itself, I want you to think about R.U.M.! Not to drink, but R = Relaxed, U = Upright, M = Mobile. If you can stay Relaxed, Upright, and Mobile during your labour, you can almost guarantee the shortest, and easiest labour on offer to you.
In terms of positions for labour and birth, try to focus on staying Upright And Mobile for the vast majority of time. Upright positions are anything from standing, kneeling or just plain old leaning forward - i.e. holding onto your partner or the end of the hospital bed or a window sill.
Check out the video below which is from a Facebook Live that I did where I talk all about the importance of posture and positioning during pregnancy, which I hope you'll really enjoy :)
I also mentioned the importance of posture for your own comfort levels, and to reduce pain in the body. I cover this in the video below too. As your body changes and your belly starts to get bigger, as do your boobs, what often happens is we begin to compensate for growing out in one direction! As pregnant women, we often over exaggerate the lower back natural curve in the body, which will lead to a weakening of those muscles, as well as becoming more rounded in the shoulders, leading to upper back pain.
You need to constantly remind yourself of how you are sitting and standing during your pregnancy. In Yoga, I work hard to get my ladies to maintain and strengthen their core muscles, and lengthen & strengthen their lower back muscles so they can prevent this type of lower back pain, and encourage opening of the muscles in the chest, and correspondingly strengthen across the upper back and shoulders. For a more detailed look into preventing pain in the body, read this blog with physiotherapist Laura Carroll.
The video from Facebook Live regarding Posture & Positioning:
If you'd like help getting baby into a good birthing position, feeling comfortable and strong during your pregnancy, and having an active, short labour, check out my Own Your Birth online program.
Helen Plass is a Pre & Postnatal Fitness Specialist, and Yoga Instructor, working with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, birth and Motherhood. She is known for her very practical & non-judgmental approach to pregnancy and the crazy times of motherhood. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com, and if you are in Ireland, her local business MumandBaby.ie