What's the first thing you picture when you think of someone giving birth? Red in the face? Lying back on a hospital bed? Feet in stirrups? Screaming for an epidural? That episode of Friends when Rachel has a baby? Something like this?
I don't blame you - we're hardly taught to think otherwise. It makes for good TV when you've got a bit of drama like that, doesn't it? Birthing on your back became popular all the way back when King Louis XIV wanted to cop an eyeful of his mistress giving birth. So instead of birthing on all fours, or in an upright position, she had to give birth on her back so that he could see it all happening. Annoyingly, it caught on as a trend and then in the 1800s when using anaesthesia became popular thanks to Queen Victoria, having a woman on her back was better for the doctors tasked with "getting the baby out". And now here we are... How does it make you feel seeing these sorts of images and hearing the "horror story" births women in our families have had? Do you feel excited? Confident in your body? Would you look forward to it even?! Probably not, I'm guessing.
What if I told you it didn't have to be that way?
What if your body is actually perfectly designed to give birth to a baby? We're mammals. Different, but in some ways not soooo different, from our giraffe or elephant friends. Do you see them giving birth lying on their backs?! Time to take a leaf out of their book!
Did you know you don't even have to push to get your baby out?! Yep, you can help by breathing them out and the position you're in when you're giving birth can help speed things up and make it more comfortable, but in terms of actually getting the baby out - your body can do that on its own! The Natural Expulsive Reflex is what get the baby out in the end. Don't believe me? An unconscious woman (eg someone in a coma) can still give birth to their baby. They can. And they have. They're not awake and being coached about when and how to push or breathe (or not breathe as is sometimes the case) and their body takes care of it. No conscious mind required... Something to think about isn't it?
Turns out what's most effective for care-providers is least effective for mum and baby. So what can you do to help the process?
UFO... KICO... WTF?!
Yep, just remember UFO and you'll be set! UFO - Upright, Forward, Open. Or KICO - Knees In, Calves Out. These two acronyms are great reminders for how you can work with gravity AND your body's perfect design to make your surges more efficient and speed up your labour in a safe and comfortable way. You know how gravity works. And your body? Well there are loads of things working in your favour, in particular, the hormone Relaxin which is pumping all around your body during pregnancy loosening your joints and ligaments to allow more movement, including your pelvic bones. Relaxin loosens them, allowing the bones at the front to move forwards. Labouring in an upright position can provide up to 30% more room in the pelvis! See what a difference it makes when the knees come in and the calves go out:
Yep, that's a lot of space for a baby, even one who your OB or midwife might think is "big". Upright positions can look like standing and leaning over the end of the bed, holding on to your partner's shoulders. Or you could be closer to the ground (you might find this position instinctively) on all fours, over a birthing ball, on a mat, on the hospital bed or in the birth pool. Or you might like to lunge. All of these positions allow you to move around more easily to find what feels right. Trust your instincts! If you don't feel those are working for you and want to lie back, try side-lying instead - that way your sacrum still has space to move.
It's been shown that women who labour in these more "active" positions tend to:
have a shorter labour
less use of analgesia
lower incidence of instrumental birth, c-section and episiotomy
less distress in their babies
Pretty compelling right?!
If you want to learn more about how your body's perfectly designed for birth, or more about labour and birth, come along to a HypnoBirthing Course. You'll learn all this and more! Check it out here.