Movement during labor, especially early labor, is very important. Not only can it make you more comfortable in labor—but gravity helps your baby descend, opens your pelvic outlet, and can help your baby engage in your pelvis. Being upright can also make your contractions more productive. Continuing to move allows your baby space to move and get into a better position if he/she is not facing the ideal way. Having freedom of movement can also help you with pain management and make your contractions more tolerable versus staying in the bed for your entire labor. Moving around is a great distraction and it also allows your muscles to stretch and flex to keep them from getting too tense.
If you are most comfortable sitting on your birth ball, relaxing in the shower, or laying in bed—that is fine too! But if you find labor begins to slow down, the first thing I suggest you try to speed things up is getting up and walking around. It is a good idea in general to get up and stretch about every hour to help your baby wiggle around to find the best way for him/her to descend further into your pelvis. While you are up and about, you might as well go to the bathroom too—emptying your bladder frequently during labor allows it to stay empty and out of the way of your baby. Also, squatting on the toilet can be a very comfortable way to labor and the act of using the bathroom can increase the frequency or strength of your contractions.
Even if you need to be continuously monitored and your birth location does not have a wireless or portable monitor, you can still move around. Your monitors will keep you tethered near the machine but the cables are typically long enough to allow you about 6-8 feet of movement—which is enough room to stand up, pace, sit on the birth ball, squat, or even do lunges! So get out of that bed if it isn’t comfortable and find somewhere or something more comfortable than sitting/lying in bed.
Movement doesn’t mean you have to walk around the whole time you are in labor, just that you should change positions occasionally, or even frequently. There are many positions and activities you can explore during labor. These include: lunges, walking the stairs, slow dancing, leaning on your partner or other surface, squatting, belly sifting or rocking, hands and knees, kneeling on the birth ball, sitting on the birth ball, and sitting on the toilet or a chair. You may find one of these positions to be most comfortable in the beginning of labor, but your most comfortable position may change during the course of your labor. If you find the birth ball most comfortable consider spelling out the alphabet with your hips in between contractions, this is just another way continued movement can help your baby adjust and descend further into your pelvis.
Did you move around during labor, or did you prefer staying in bed?
Next I will be blogging on the letter N… N is for Nourishment. I will discuss the ACOG recommendations and typical hospital policies involving eating during labor.