With all the recent talk about moving in labor and why it helps, we wanted to share 9 of the most common and beneficial movements for labor and birth.
Standing – Standing helps your body work best with gravity during labor, allowing baby to rotate and move down your birth canal, readying for birth.
Walking – Walking is wonderful in early and active labor. It can intensify contractions, is gravity positive, and acts as a distraction to help you cope with labor. One word of caution, however: don’t over exert yourself by walking at length to “jump start” labor — usually, labor will happen when your baby and body are ready. Tiring yourself out by walking miles around your neighborhood in early labor could deplete you of the energy that’s needed later in active labor and birth.
Stair climbing – If your labor has stalled or if you are experiencing “back labor” due to a posterior baby, you may have a baby who needs extra coaxing to rotate in the optimal position for birth. Climbing stairs opens your pelvis, allowing baby to come down and further engage, pressing on your cervix to facilitate dilation. The back-and-forth uneven tilting motion that stair climbing causes also helps baby shift and rotate. If possible and safe, climb steps two at a time.
Hip circles/rocking on a ball – Sitting on an exercise/yoga/birth ball often feels wonderful in labor. It allows you to maintain an upright position while giving your legs a rest. To stay active while on the ball, open your legs wide (for stability and to open your pelvis) and do hip circles, alternating to the left and right. For a similar effect, you can also do pelvic tilts, rocking forward and back.
Lunges – Similar to stair climbing, lunging (one at a time, held in position for a few contractions) opens your pelvis and allows more room for baby to rotate and descend. Be sure to lunge safely, with support from your partner or doula. For more details on how best to use a lunge during labor, check out the description on Spinning Babies.
Squatting – Squatting widens your pelvic opening significantly, and can help in labor by making contractions more effective, speeding up labor, and allowing room for baby to descend. There are many ways to squat during labor — supported by a partner, with a rebozo, with a squat bar, holding onto an exercise ball. Childbirth classes are great for teaching you the many ways to squat (and several other movements!) during labor.
Side lying – While it isn’t very “active,” getting into a side lying position can be beneficial when used as a tool to rest in labor or slow down labor.
Kneeling/all fours – Kneeling or all fours/hands and knees positions can help bring relief from back labor and can be excellent positions for giving birth. One of the wonderful benefits of this position is that it gives your partner or doula access to your back and hips for massage, counter pressure, and the double hip squeeze.
Rolling over – If you have an epidural during labor and birth, it’s still possible — and important! — to remain as mobile as possible. With the help of a support person or your care provider, change positions every 30 minutes. Penny Simkin developed a sequence of 6 positions, called the “rollover,” to promote mobility when laboring with an epidural.