By Patricia Newton
The long awaiting day has finally arrived. Youíre in labor! Now what? Although you might want to crawl into bed and not get up until itís all over, staying in bed is one of the worst things you can do. For years, experts have been emphasizing the need for freedom of movement during labor. Barbara Harper, R.N., writes in her popular book Gentle Birth Choices, "If a woman is physically active during labor, her baby is constantly repositioning in the womb, readjusting and descending, preparing for the birth. Requiring a woman to be in bed during any part of her labor and decreasing her ability to move increases the need for interventions." So, if you want a shorter and easier labor, get up! Get out of bed and into these beneficial positions.
This position will be especially helpful if you are unable to get out of bed because of a medical condition or if you have received an epidural. Start by lying directly on one side. Remain on this side continuously for three contractions. After the third contraction, shift yourself (or have someone help you) so that you are lying on the opposite side. Again, remain in this position for another three contractions. Then, if possible, move onto your hands and knees while remaining in the bed. If holding yourself up with your hands is uncomfortable, have someone raise the head of the bed so that you can lean onto the bed while remaining on your knees. Try to stay in this position for three more contractions.
Once your caregiver tells you that your baby is at a +1 position (this means your baby has substantially descended into your pelvis), you might want to try to squat. Squatting opens your pelvis and gives your baby more room to descend. For this reason, squatting is often used during the pushing stage as well. You can try squatting in bed while using a squat bar, mounted onto the bed, for support. You can also squat out of the bed with your feet flat on the floor. Use the side of the bed or hold onto your partnerís hands for support. As you feel a contraction beginning, slowly lower yourself into a squatting position. Try to remain there throughout the contraction and breathe slowly. As the contraction ends, slowly raise yourself up.
In addition to giving your baby more space to turn and descend, lunging can also help relieve back pain. The lunge can be done by standing on the floor and placing one foot on a chair next to you. Turn the elevated foot so that it is pointing 90 degrees outward, away from your body. Gently lunge, or lean, into the side with the raised leg. Continue to slowly lunge and return to your starting position several times during a contraction. During the next contraction, try lunging into the opposite direction and see which side feels better. Continue lunging into the side that feels more comfortable.
Not much of a dancer? Then call it "swaying" instead. Stand up, face your partner and wrap your arms around your partnerís neck. Have someone put on a relaxing CD and start moving. The standing position will allow gravity to help bring your baby down and out. The rhythmic movements youíll make, combined with the music, will help relax your mind and will therefore allow your body to do what it needs to do.
The rhythmic motion felt when rocking is similar to that while slow dancing. Rocking is often done instinctively during labor. It can become a type of ritual during a contraction and may help you mentally get through a contraction. Rocking can be done while sitting on a birth ball, on the edge of a bed, and of course, in a rocking chair.
The importance of movement during the birth of your baby cannot be overemphasized. In addition to helping the progress of labor, there is yet another benefit. By becoming familiar with these suggested positions during pregnancy, your partner will be a more confident labor support person and will be able to encourage you to move should you be reluctant to do so once labor actually begins.
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