When the topic of child birth comes up we might first think of new life and a beautiful miracle, but after that we might think of the agonizing pain that is experienced by most mothers who give birth to a child. Could it be possible that the body was meant to experience birth in a different way? First let’s understand a bit more about a “modern birth.”
Advances in modern medicine are often believed to create a higher quality of life and said to be a big step forward. Is this true in every case though? When we examine the current process of child birth, which modern medicine has put millions of women through, some would say that many aspects of the process are quite unnatural.
One example; today in the US, 65.9% of vaginal births use the lithomy position during the second stage of labor. This is the typical position you would see a mother in when you imagine birth or watch movies with a birth scene in it etc. The mother lies on her back, legs pulled to either side while semi-sitting. This position is also called the C-position as the body is resting on the tailbone and curled in the shape of a C. This position is believed to actually be one of the hardest and most illogical positions due to the fact the birth canal is shaped like a ‘J.’ This means the mother is working against gravity and in the end pushing the baby UP the bottom loop of the ‘J’ to birth the child. The convenience factor for the doctor is undeniable here. There is easy and quick access to the birthing woman, but at a cost of detrimental effects to the woman birthing.  One effect being the fact that the pelvic region is reduced by 30% which forces the woman to put direct pressure on her sacrum (tailbone). This forces it to flex upward, taking it into a curved position that restricts the diameter of the pelvic outlet. This can inhibit the baby’s movement through the maternal pelvis.
Research has shown that effective positioning can speed labor and reduce discomfort by aligning the baby properly. This is achieved because alternate positions reduce area-specific pressure and unnecessary muscular effort. This actually allows the baby to be re-positioned during labor if need be. One study demonstrated that mothers who changed positions frequently during labor and birth saw a 50% reduction in time progressing from 3cm to 10cm dilatation. Research also demonstrates that birthing in a non-supine position can lead to lower levels of back pain, pain during pushing and fewer perineal tears, which also reduces the need for suturing or surgical repair of the pelvic floor.
Ineffective birth positions don’t just affect the mother but also pose risks to the child as well. The lithotomy position can compress major blood vessels which interferes with circulation and lowers maternal blood pressure, this can then lower fetal transcutaneous oxygen saturation by as much as 91%.  Further, this position can decrease fetal heart rate and contribute to other forms of fetal distress, including cord compression, which may lead to continuous or internal fetal monitoring, increased risk of shoulder dystocia/problems with fetal presentation or a prolonged pushing phase.
Alternative Birth Positions
So what are the alternatives to the standard birthing positions? The following is stated by Giving Birth Naturally and outlines brief details about alternative birthing positions. For expecting mothers or planning mothers, I would suggest looking into alternative birthing positions via the internet or some books. Alternatively, you can look in your area for mid-wives who are open and experienced with alternative practices. Some hospitals cater to alternative births as well, but this is still a bit rare.
Hands and Knees Positions
Quadruped childbirth positions, which include the “crawl” and the “full moon”, are beneficial for back labor, turning a posterior baby, and are often the best birth positions for birthing a large baby.
Sitting positions combine the helpful force of gravity with relaxation. A birth ball, rocking, or toilet sitting can be utilized to rest while gravity helps labor progress.
Squatting positions are helpful in opening the pelvis to allow a baby to find the optimal position for birth. Squatting can be performed through use of a birth companion or a tool such as a squatting bar.
Lateral or Side-lying positions are beneficial for resting during a long labour, promoting body-wide relaxation, and minimizing extra muscular effort. They are best used in the later stages of labor since gravity isn’t able to speed the process.
Upright or Standing Positions
Upright positions for childbirth use gravity to the mother’s advantage. They help the baby drop into the pelvis and prevent pressure from being concentrated in a particular spot. They also allow the birth companions to apply other comfort measures easily. They represent the most under-used birth positions.
Another notable birthing option is known as a water birth. To visualize what this might look like, I have included a video below looking at various case studies of water birthing. It was true that these women were not only able to reduce pain involved with the birth process but they were also able to have an orgasm during the process.
1. Shorten, A., Donsante, J. and Shorten, B. (2002), Birth Position, Accoucheur, and Perineal Outcomes: Informing Women About Choices for Vaginal Birth. Birth, 29: 18-27.
2. Harry Oxorn, MD Human Labor and Birth (University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada,McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing) 1986
3. Gardosi, J., Sylvester, S. and B-Lynch, C. (1989), Alternative positions in the second stage of labour: a randomized controlled trial. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 96: 1290-1296.
4. Humphrey et al “The influence of maternal posture at birth on the fetus” J Obstet Gynecol Br Commonwealth 80:1075, 1973
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