Benefits of Movement in Childbirth
Hi readers! My name is Marin Huskey. I’m a childbirth educator, mother and budding herbalist currently living in Tucson, AZ. I come from a large family, all born at home. I birthed my own son at home. I am a firm believer in natural, mother-centered childbirth. My philosophy surrounding birth is this: the more physiologically natural the birth, the better. Our bodies have innate knowledge and wisdom when it comes to childbearing. When women are supported properly by their care providers and allowed to take the lead in their birth, they are more likely to achieve a healthy birth. That being said, there is a time and a place for modern medicine and intervention. The key is to offer up the necessary information so that women may choose for themselves. Now, you have glimpsed into my mind and understand my main philosophy for birth. Let’s dive in and talk about movement. You’re reading this article to determine whether or not movement plays a beneficial role in childbirth. I’m here to teach you, it does!
Since the beginning of our species, much of our lives have depended upon movement. Movement is the key to life in many ways. We move our bodies to stay healthy, strong and alive. We move to find water, we move to grow food, we move to love one another, we move to care for our babies. Wouldn’t it make sense that we move to BIRTH our babies, too? Before birth moved into the hospital setting, this was the natural way. Women helped women move through their birth. Although the hospital has offered up a wonderful array of life saving tactics, it seemed to forget about a crucial aspect of birth. Movement can aide labor in similar ways as some of our modern day interventions. Maybe that isn’t enough information to seal the deal. But don’t worry, I have science on my side! According to a recent study, “Freedom of movement is important in making the birth of your baby easier. It is the best way for you to use gravity to help your baby come down and to increase the size and shape of your pelvis. It allows you to respond to pain in an active way, and it may speed up the labor process (Simkin & Ancheta, 2005).” The same study mentions a few key points such as, movement in labor makes labor easier, walking and changing positions can speed up your labor, give you a better sense of control, and increase your odds of having a vaginal delivery.
With that information in mind we can assume that movement is more beneficial than stagnation in labor. But, why does movement help us birth our babies? Movement makes our muscles and bones work with the birthing process instead of against it. “When you walk or move around in labor, your uterus, a muscle, works more efficiently (Roberts, Mendez-Bauer, & Wodell, 1983). Changing position frequently moves the bones of the pelvis to help the baby find the best fit through your birth canal, while upright positions use gravity to help bring the baby down (Simkin & Ancheta, 2005). When labor slows, a change in position often will help you “find your rhythm” again.”
Although movement has been proven to be the best aide to labor and delivery, it is often a difficult thing to accomplish in a hospital setting. Birth plan or not, there might be some obstacles to overcome if movement during labor is desired. You might be asking what type of obstacles you could possible run into? I mean, if movement really is better, then wouldn’t the hospital be on board to help women move? That would be ideal. However, most hospitals are set up in a techno-medical model of care. What is that? Well, it is the modern medicine philosophy. The idea that childbirth and pregnancy are illnesses that need careful planning and fixing. So, if we are sick, then we must need medicine! Here lies the obstacle. In a hospital setting you may be connected to an IV line (for fluids or medicine) or an electronic fetal monitor (monitors baby’s heart rate), given pitocin (induces or augments labor) or pain medications that make it uncomfortable or even impossible to move. This leaves you in a supine position (flat on your back), the most ineffective for birth. For some women this medical model feels the safest, most reliable way to give birth and for others it can feel very invasive and counterintuitive.
How do you avoid being tethered down in labor? How do you ensure you can move your body to your choosing while also having access to hospital help if needed? First, choose a healthcare provider that knows the benefits of movement. If your birth plan states that you desire a natural birth with free movement, yet your doctor has a 40% cesarean rate or a 50% induction rate, you might not be a good match for each other. Ask questions, ensure that the person you hire as your care provider is understanding and supportive of your wishes. Second, hire a doula or monitrice to be your eyes, ears and a voice of reason. If you hope to never be connected to an electronic fetal monitor you might ask the doctor or nurses to check heart tones with a doppler or fetoscope. It might even be worthwhile to hire a private monitrice who can listen for baby’s heart tones with a doppler or fetoscope every so often. This way your doctor is comfortable, and you’re not demanding more than the nurses on staff can offer. Third, coach your partner on how to advocate for you while in labor. Have your birth plan handy and be sure your partner or friend knows what you want/don’t want so they can speak for you if needed. Lastly, keep yourself informed and ask for what you need! Build a strong relationship with your doctor or midwife and know that in some cases, intervention might be the correct path to take, even if it means forfeiting movement. While we know that movement is the most efficient, comfortable way to birth, we as women must be prepared to make accommodations depending upon our personal circumstances. My best advice: advocate for yourself, stay informed and be ready to adapt. Move your body and birth your baby in the way that feels right for you. There is no wrong way to birth a baby, there is only YOUR way.
Article written by: Marin Huskey – Birth Matters – 425.248.9905 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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