Women all over the world give birth squatting, leaning or even standing. We lie down. What do they know that we don’t?
One study found that first-time mothers who squatted while pushing had labors that were 23 minutes shorter on average than women who labored semi-reclining. They also required significantly less oxytocin (Pitocin) to stimulate contractions. What’s more, they had less back pressure, fewer forceps or vacuum deliveries, and fewer and less-severe perineal tears and episiotomies.
Don’t want to squat in the middle of your hospital room? Use the squatting bar on your hospital bed for support. The correct form: knees wide, feet flat on the floor. Warning: Don’t try squatting unsupported unless you’re sure you can hold the position and keep your balance. In fact, you should get in shape by practicing squats during your pregnancy: You don’t want to find out at the crucial moment that your leg and thigh muscles aren’t up to the task.
Other options for delivery include sitting on a birthing stool, kneeling or crouching on your hands and knees. No problem if you’re having a midwife deliver your baby at home or in a birthing center. Otherwise, make sure in advance that your doctor and hospital policies give you the green light.
Get on the (birthing) ball
Using an exercise ball could help you get through labor. The ideal size for most women is about 65 centimeters in diameter. When you sit on it, your knees should be bent 90 degrees. Here are various ways to use one:
Place the ball on a bed or sturdy chair, stand facing it and lean forward so that your upper body rests on the ball. This will enable you to stand up longer without overtaxing your muscles.
Kneel in front of the ball and drape your body over it. This will encourage a baby who’s faceup to rotate into the proper position for delivery (facedown) and relieve the pain of back labor.
Sit upright on the ball. This relieves pain and pressure on your back and perineum (the area between the vagina and rectum).
Tips from a labor nurse
If you’re spending even part of your labor in bed, here are suggestions from Fit Pregnancy’s “Ask the Labor Nurse” blogger Jeanne Faulkner, R.N.:
Angle the head of the bed 45 degrees and put a pillow or rolled-up towel under one hip; this will help “tip” the uterus off of your large blood vessels, improving circulation to the baby and your brain.
If the baby is faceup and this is causing back labor, lie as far on one side as possible, then rest your top leg on the mattress in front of your belly. This encourages the baby to rotate into the ideal (facedown) position for birth.
Changing positions every 10 contractions while you’re pushing can help “corkscrew” the baby out. Start lying on one side, go onto your back, turn to the other side, then get on your hands and knees.
Learn more about labor For articles on every aspect of giving birth, go to fitpregnancy.com/labor.