If there was ever a time for a massage, it's active labor. Ask
your partner or birth coach to apply relieving counter pressure
with these three moves.
When you think about labor, you may envision lying in bed.
But that's not necessarily the best place to be,
especially during active labor, the rigorous phase of childbirth in
which contractions arrive roughly every three minutes and the
cervix fully effaces and dilates between 5 and 8
"Unless there's a medical reason for remaining in bed,
such as high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia, there's very little
reason to be there," says Karen Barr, a certified nurse-midwife at
Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora. "In fact, I find that women
who do spend a lot of time in bed during labor have a harder time
coping with the discomfort of the contractions. It can also impede
Besides walking-an age-old labor trick for prodding Mother
Nature-striking an upright pose, preferably a different one every
half hour or so, can enlist gravity and pelvic movement to help
keep labor moving along, says Barr. It may also help rotate your
baby out of a posterior (forward facing) position in the pelvis,
which can be painful, and increase blood flow to the placenta to
enhance baby's oxygen supply, reducing the risk of fetal
Here are some positions that may ease pain during active
labor and help labor progress. Practice these exercises now so
you're comfortable with them by the time you're ready to give
With your feet spread apart, put your elbows on the bed or hold
on to the bed or a chair for support, then bend your knees and
squat, either halfway or fully to the floor. "Just don't bear
down," cautions Martha Barry, a certified nurse-midwife at Advocate
Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, since your cervix isn't
dilated enough at this stage of labor to push the baby out. During
a contraction, round your back. (Doing this can help redistribute
To build leg power, practice squatting several months to weeks
before your due date. Or sit on a birthing ball, aka an exercise
ball at the gym, in a squatting position. "A birthing ball gets you
into a squat while providing support for your lower back and legs
so they don't get tired. Do a hula motion with your hips," Barr
Place one foot on a sturdy chair, bed or stairway, lean into a
lunge position and rock your hips during contractions. Switch legs
every now and then. "When you put your foot on a higher level, your
pelvis opens up. The baby has more room to descend the pelvis,"
says Barry. Stair climbing does the same thing. "Try spreading your
legs and going up the stairs two at a time," she says.
On the floor or in your bed, get on your hands and knees and
alternate rounding your back and flattening it, rocking your hips
with each contraction. "This is one of the least stressful
positions because your baby is no longer pressing against your
spine. It's also easier for anyone assisting you to apply warm
compresses to your back, which can be soothing," says Barry.
Place a pillow on top of a bureau, a table or a hospital bed
that has been raised to its highest level. Then, simply lean
forward, drape yourself onto the pillow and sway your hips during a
contraction. Since you're standing, you're working with gravity.
"And leaning into something soft feels really good," says Kim
Wheaten, a certified doula in DeKalb.
Raise the back of the hospital bed so that it's in an upright
position. Kneel on the bed, facing the pillow and lean forward
carefully, draping yourself over the raised portion. Or simply face
forward. "This position gets you into a squat-like position in bed
and you're upright, so you're using gravity to help your baby
descend," says Barr. It's especially helpful if you have to remain
in your bed and be on the monitor for some reason.
At some point during active labor, you may want to rest. And if
you get an epidural or you're being induced or monitored, you can
find yourself bedridden. To help labor progress if you're bedridden
or resting, lie in bed on your side with pillows stuffed between
your legs, says Wheaten. Unlike lying on your back, your weight
won't be on your aorta (a major artery), which can affect your
circulation and your baby's oxygen supply.
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