Movement During Labor
When I was in labor, I could not sit still during contractions. I noticed that as I would move around and get into different positions, the pain from the contraction wouldn’t be as intense. Not only that, but moving around helped my labor progress beautifully and added a distraction during the intense contractions.
Before I even started my induced labor, I knew that I wanted to be able to move around and not be confined to the bed on my back. By doing different movements, I felt like I was contributing to the journey my daughter had to take. I made sure that the movements and positions I used were in favor of gravity and created a good dive angle. Working with gravity, and not against, made contractions more comfortable for me to handle and allowed my daughter to push down more on my cervix, allowing for a good dilation progression.
Another benefit to movements during labor is that it can help correct baby’s position. Some babies need help to get into the correct position because they are facing your belly, facing one of your sides, or lying completely sideways. The following are all movements that help with labor pain, correct baby’s position, help baby descend, and increase your active participation:
- Pelvic Rocking/ Pelvic Tilt – This is typically done in the first stage of labor, however you may do this whenever you feel like it. When you are on your hands and knees, you will want to arch your back while taking a deep breath in, then relax while releasing that breath. Doing this movement helps baby turn 180 degree’s and reduce back pain and pressure.
- Lunge – This movement is primarily done in the first stage of labor, but can be done whenever you desire. Using a stable chair, prop one leg up and lean into that leg. You can use either leg, but it would be best to lean to the side your baby is facing. This helps open up your pelvis and allows baby to turn and descend.
- Walking or Stair Climbing – Primarily done in the first stage of labor but is useful throughout all stages of labor. Walking and climbing stairs helps with baby’s descent into the birth canal and helps with rotating the baby.
- Slow Dancing – While usually done in the first stage of labor, slow dancing is a great movement that can be done whenever you desire. Slow dancing with your partner can help reduce stress to you, which helps your uterus contract more freely. Just like walking, this movement uses gravity to help get baby lower. Slow dancing is a great substitute for walking and/or stair climbing.
- Abdominal stroking – Primarily done in the first stage of labor, this movement helps turn baby by stroking in the direction you want baby to turn. When on your hands and knees, your partner will stand at your side opposite where baby is. They will place one hand on your back and the other on your belly, stroking your belly by bringing that hand towards them. The stroking should be done in between contractions.
- Abdominal lifting – Done during the first stage of labor but can be done whenever you please. While standing and during contractions, you will want to interlock your fingers, place them under your belly, and lift your belly up and out and tilt your pelvis by bending your knee. An alternative to this is using your partner. While your partner stands behind you, s/he can use a woven rebozo to lift your belly up and out. This type of movement is great at reducing back pain and provides a gravity advantage.
- Pelvic Press – This type of movement is done during the second stage of labor if labor has been slowed by baby’s position. While you are standing, your partner, caregiver, or preferably both, will press against your hip joints very firmly. This will make the upper portion of your pelvis narrow and create more room for turning and descending in the lower pelvis. To have the greatest chance of opening up your pelvis, try squatting in place of standing for this movement. It is best to not do this movement while an epidural is in place. This is because the epidural may hinder you from feeling pain and could cause damage to the joints.
Moving during labor is very beneficial for both you and your baby. Moving helps to distract you during contractions and even reduce pain, depending on the movement you are doing. If baby isn’t in prime position for delivery, certain movements can help with rotating and bringing baby down further into the birth canal. I hope these movements can help you as much as they helped me during my hospital VBAC!
Simkin, P., & Ancheta, R. (2005). The labor progress handbook. (2nd ed., pp. 231-243). Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell.