Films and TV programs are full of images of women giving birth, and it’s fair to say that the vast majority of them show labouring mothers lying down on their backs. In One Born Every Minute and other labour ward documentaries it seems that most of the women arrive at the hospital and instantly get onto the bed.
It hasn’t always been this way.
Throughout history women of every civilisation, culture and nationality laboured and birthed in an upright position, be it standing, kneeling, squatting or sitting on a birth stool. If a woman is left to birth instinctively, listening to her body, she will undoubtedly stay upright, and here are some reasons why…
More space in the pelvis
The female pelvis is not one mass of solid, immovable bone. In fact it’s made up of four bones and four joints, is covered in juicy soft tissue and is able to move to accommodate your baby’s journey. Lying down to birth restricts any movement in the sacrum and coccyx (the lower part of the spine) and reduces the space in the pelvis by up to a third! So, choosing an upright position for birth can give your baby 33% more space as they journey through.
Birthing upright means you have gravity on your side. During labour the baby’s head applies more pressure to the cervix, encouraging opening, and gravity makes it easier for baby to descend. The natural curve of your sacrum and coccyx act as a slide to guide your baby through your pelvis, plus the even pressure on the perineum reduces the chance of a tear.
Less pain during surges
The uterus works with gravity and so is more efficient whilst tilted forward. Lying back ‘fighting gravity’ is much more painful for most women.
Optimal circulation to the womb
The vena cava is a large vein which runs behind the uterus. At full-term the baby, amniotic fluid and placenta can weigh 20 pounds – the same as a car tyre! When reclining, this can rest on the vena cava and compromise the blood flow, and thus oxygen flow, to the uterus and baby. With this in mind, pregnant women should rule out lying on their backs from 30 weeks onwards.
Sense of control, empowerment and comfort
Women have forever birthed in upright positions. It allows freedom to move, increased comfort and gives control back to the mother. It is natural, normal and instinctive.
So ladies, don't be afraid to get off that bed and birth those babies like your body was made to!