Before having my two children and working in a birthing center, I literally knew NOTHING about pregnancy and giving birth.
I had no idea that there was even a specific birthing position that my baby should be in. And this birthing position was more than just being “head down.”
To tell you the truth though, I really thought that all care providers were like my midwives. I thought that the typical care provider explained every little detail, and I was so sad to find out that that isn’t the case.
When I moved down to Arizona, I had a doctor instead of a midwife, and I was shocked at how much is NOT explained! Don’t get me wrong, my doctor was totally competent and intelligent, and he did a really great job with my delivery. But throughout my prenatal care, I just didn’t get the same information that was provided to me by my midwives in Utah. (Side note: if you’re in Utah/Salt Lake County area, you MUST look up BetterBirth. They are FANTASTIC!)
One of the major things I noticed through the prenatal care of my daughter (my second), was that never once was her position mentioned to me other than that “she was head down.” But there is more to it!
Have you ever heard of back labor? If you have, then I’m sure that you have heard of how uncomfortable it is! Back labor is when your baby is in the posterior position. This means that the back of your baby’s head is against your back and tailbone. The pressure of your baby’s skull against your spine and pelvis can cause extreme pain during labor.
“But I’m having an epidural, why would I care?”
That’s an excellent question! And one of the reasons why care providers don’t bother telling you either. If you have an epidural, you most likely won’t be feeling that pain. But here’s the kicker: back labor tends to last longer than when your baby is in the optimal, anterior, position. Part of this is because when a baby is in the posterior position, he often isn’t able to put the proper pressure on your cervix to help it to dilate.
When a baby is anterior, the narrowest part of a baby’s head is pointed toward the birth canal and therefore able to give proper pressure to help move labor along. Look at the image below to see the different possible positions for your baby in regards to your pelvis:
This is a baby in a posterior position. As you can see the back of the baby’s head is against the mom’s spine. This causes A LOT of pain during labor and also makes it harder for the baby to come out.
This baby is breech. It is definitely possible to flip her, but if she doesn’t flip by the time you are in labor, you will most likely need a c-section for your’s and your baby’s safety.
This baby is transverse, meaning he is going side to side. This is fairly common in your second trimester because your baby is still so small, but once he gets bigger, he will probably move to either a cephalic (head down) or breech position.
This baby is in an anterior position where the back of the head is actually toward the front of your body. This is the optimal birthing position for your baby to be born in!
Also, based on the position of the birth canal within your body, when a baby puts her head to her chest, you need a wider opening for the head to be born when in a posterior position rather than an anterior position. If any of you are like me, you have already wondered how a head will fit in the first place! Let’s make it as easy as possible then!
But if you are planning a natural birth, you definitely need to check out this post 8 Tips to Achieve Your Dream Natural Birth.
“How do I know if my baby is posterior?”
There are a few ways you can find out. One of the easiest ways is to just ask your provider! Oftentimes providers don’t palpate (feel for the different parts of the baby), but they are more than capable of doing it. If your baby’s back is toward your front, they will be able to easily feel that.
Another way you can find out is by lying down on your back (briefly). If your belly protrudes and you can feel the hardness of the spine, then most likely, your baby is anterior. If your belly appears flat, then, very possibly, your baby is posterior.
A final way you can tell is by paying attention to where your kicks are taking place. If you are feeling your kicks more toward your sides, then your baby is probably anterior, but if you are feeling them in the front of your belly, then your baby is probably posterior.
“My baby is posterior, so now what do I do?”
There is an excellent resource called spinningbabies.com that will give you lots of exercises to help get your baby to move into that perfect birthing position. One of the moves is called the cat/cow pose. You may recognize this move if you have ever done yoga. How it works is that your baby’s spine is the heaviest part of him, so you are using gravity to help pull the spine forward.
Another small thing that makes a big difference is to use proper posture while sitting. I totally know how your back feels being in the final weeks of pregnancy, but try to avoid the temptation to lounge/slouch in chairs. If you are sitting up straight, you aren’t giving your baby the space he needs to rotate into a posterior position. So it’s the best thing!
If you struggle with sitting up straight or leaning forward, I would invest in an exercise ball. Sitting on one will help with hip and back pain. It will also encourage your baby to be in the best birthing position!
If you need to lie down though, lie on your side with the leg that’s on top going across your body. That also encourages your baby to be in that best birthing position. Having a specific pregnancy pillow can help with better comfort while lying down too. I LOVE this one. It was my saving grace during my second pregnancy.
Of course, some babies just don’t turn. But don’t let that cause a loss of hope! There are many women who have been able to vaginally give birth to posterior babies; my mom is one of them! But if you follow these tips, you should be able to really prep your baby to be in the best birthing position possible.
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