Have you ever heard the term ‘posterior’? Or perhaps face-up or sunny side up?
Mum’s Grapevine expert, midwife Edwina Sharrock from Birth Beat explains the posterior position, how it can affect the birth and things expecting mums can do to encourage baby into a better position.
Most of us know that ideally, baby will move into a head-down position in the weeks leading up to birth. But the way that your baby is facing is also a factor when it comes to what’s considered the ideal position for birth.
What is the posterior position?
The occiput posterior fetal position is when bub is head down, they’re facing outward and their back is pressed against yours. Posterior position of the baby in late pregnancy is a term the gets many women worried and worked up.
Birthing a baby in a posterior position can lead to a longer and more intense birth, with more backpain. But it doesn’t mean impossible and it certainly doesn’t mean a guaranteed c-section that or other birth interventions will be necessary.
Firstly, I want all mums-to-be to know that the posterior position is a variation on normal. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you or your baby! It just means that they’re in a position that is less-ideal for birth than the more common anterior position. However, this doesn’t mean that:
a) they won’t move into a different position before or during birth or that,
b) it’s impossible to birth a baby in the posterior position.
In fact, my first-born Polly was in the posterior position and while my labour was more intense (you don’t get those breaks in between contractions), she was born healthy and well with no complications for me.
How to get baby in an ideal position for birth
The first thing any pregnant mumma can do is try and get bub into the ideal position before birth. And while you don’t have complete control over this, there are some things you can do to encourage baby into a better position.
Our modern lifestyles mean that many of us spend hours a day in a sedentary position. Think hours working at a desk, followed by a few hours each night lounging back watching Netflix (at least if you don’t already have other babies or children!). The way we’re sitting, often with poor posture and slouched so that our pelvis is tilted backwards, means that baby is less likely to naturally settle into the best position for birth.
Think about how much our ancestors would have done in comparison. More walking every single day, more physical labour involved with gathering and preparing food, looking after other small children in a tribal situation and whole lot less lounging around on the couch.
While we can’t eliminate much of our modern movement patters, most of us have to sit down to work at the very least, there are things we can do to counteract them.
Here are some of my top tips for encouraging baby into the best position for birth which are great both during the last couple of months of pregnancy as well as during labour.
Regardless of which way bub is facing, they can help make your labour more comfortable and efficient compared to being immobile in bed.
1. Think about opening up the pelvis by sitting and tilting forward whenever possible. Not slouching and leaning backwards which we often tend to do.
2. Kneel on the ground and rest your torso, arms and head on a large fit ball. Let your whole body relax and gently sway.
3. Practice the ‘cat n cow’ position. Go onto all fours then gently arch and dip your back
4. Stand when you can and think about rocking. Imagine drawing a figure of eight with your pelvis with gentle, fluid motions to help open up the pelvis.
5. Leaning on a bench, lean over and again think about a gentle side-to-side rock. Gravity helps encourage baby forward, into the ideal position, rather than backwards. This is also a great position for your partner to stand behind you and gently squeeze your hips together and massage your lower back
6. Inversions – always do these with someone else with you the first time you try. Essentially you want to have your knees and feet on a low couch and then slowly walk your hands out on the floor in front of you until you’re resting on your forearms and your bum is high in the air. Do this for around 30 seconds. The position opens up more space and brings the weight of the baby forward
7. Walk, walk, walk! Even just a quick walk around the block after dinner or parking a little further away from work than normal will help encourage bub into an optimal position in the pelvis
Please always speak to your healthcare provider about your specific situation and confirm if these exercises are right for you before trying. In most cases though, they are a simple and safe way to encourage your bubba into the best position possible.
It’s important to highlight that even if your bub is in a posterior position when you start to go into labour, the majority of babies will rotate before birth. There is no question that this can impact the length of labour, with many women whose baby is in a posterior position experiencing longer labours.
Having a great support team during labour, understanding what is happening to your body and why, trying to be as active and mobile as possible throughout the labour and trying different birth positions can all help to increase your chances of bub rotating during labour.
Edwina Sharrock a registered midwife and mother of two. She’s also the founder of Birth Beat – an online antenatal course that is simple, easy and convenient to watch from the privacy of your home. Birth Beat includes prenatal yoga, a complete prenatal course, plus breastfeeding, sleep and settle. All delivered to you in easy to watch videos.
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