Movement – A Friend of Labor
Birth doesn’t have to be a dramatic movie depiction of a woman laying on her back with her legs in stirrups! This version of labor, known as the lithotomy position, has been widely used for the last 200 years. Prior to this time, the recorded history of birthing indicates upright birth postures were used across the world, regardless of culture or economic development. What if you combined that upright birth posture with movement? Here are a few suggestions for aiding labor progression by utilizing one key tool: MOVEMENT!
As a Birth Doula and Dancing For Birth™ instructor, I have found utilizing movement, through dancing and upright positions to have overwhelmingly positive effects for the laboring mother. When a mother is allowed to move into the surges she is experiencing, she becomes in-tune to her body’s needs. Dancing during pregnancy and birth has many benefits, including the reduction of stress and tension, the true enemy of an easy labor and birth. Low impact exercise also helps increase the body’s release of pain killing endorphins and the flow of Oxytocin, the hormone that brings about labor naturally.
During Dancing For Birth™ classes, you will learn exercises to keep you moving during pregnancy, as well as prepare you for labor. These classes can help shorten the length of labor, reduce your risk of interventions and aid in optimal fetal positioning. While attending DFB classes, your pelvic outlet opens wider and your comfort level increase. Ultimately, you are helping your baby rotate and descend into a better position with each class.
Movement keeps you in an upright position allowing you to benefit from gravity. When laboring, keep in mind, that the bed is not the FOCUS of the room. The bed is a tool for labor! Try utilizing this tool by resting over it while making use of a birth ball. It may also help you balance while doing a birth preparation position, such as squats or lunges. When a laboring mom is confined to the bed, her pelvic outlet is restricted and her sacrum is compressed. In order to create more space for baby in your pelvis, get up on your feet and use gravity to your birthing advantage.
The discomfort of labor can be intensified by being on your back consistently. Other tools to consider utilizing are walking, swaying, or even hip circles on your birth ball to help you through those labor pains and contractions. These movement tools can stimulate mechanoreceptors. Essentially, pleasurable sensations reach the brain much quicker than uncomfortable labor pains. In some cases, the movement tool can be a distraction to overcome contractions. Get your partner to help support you in the upright movements and listen to your bodies natural cues to move. Movement can be an instinctual coping method.
Lastly, movement can help your baby descend down and help you progress in labor. The upright labor position combined with movement creates more productive contractions by placing pressure on your cervix. As you move your hips instinctively, asymmetric space is created in the pelvis. This allows more room for your baby to navigate through and could lead to an easier labor and birth. As you create your own language of movement during this life changing experience, you are allowing your body to open up to its most optimal potential.
Overall, being able to move about freely during labor could help shorten the duration of your labor. Only you will know what feels right in the moment. Begin practicing movement now (dancing, walking, swaying, birth ball techniques) and build your stamina for labor. Surround yourself with an exceptional birth team, rest when needed, and bust a move when your body cues it. Dance through labor like no one is watching!