As a new mom, labor can seem downright scary.
You may have already heard some of the horror stories from seasoned moms… tales of large, “sunny-side up” babies becoming stuck in the birth canal and endless hours of painful labor that inevitably led to a c-section.
As a new mom, the possibility of this scenario loomed over my third trimester. Preventing it didn’t seem possible; I believed that the difficulty a woman experienced during childbirth was pretty much left to luck.
It wasn’t until 36 weeks, after my midwife told me that my daughter was breech, that I discovered how powerful encouraging your baby into the best birthing position could be.
If you’re nervous about giving birth or your provider has just told you that your baby isn’t in the best position, this post is perfect for you. While no woman can completely control the outcome of her labor, these simple, quick exercises can encourage your baby to shift into the best birthing position. The end result is often a shorter, less painful labor.
Personally, I swear by them. I believe they played a direct part in turning my breech baby and finally encouraging her to spin from posterior during labor.
I hope these exercises work wonders for you as well!
What is the Best Baby Birthing Position?
Before we dive into the actual exercises, let’s talk about what the best baby position for birth is.
The holy grail of baby positions is Left Occiput Anterior (LOA). This means your baby is head down and his tummy is facing your spine and right shoulder. Other positions, such as posterior, breech, or transverse are considered abnormal fetal positions.
But why is left occiput anterior best?
During childbirth, your baby will move down your pelvis, tuck his chin in, curve his back, and scoot right through your birth canal (that’s the extremely condensed version, obviously).
If your baby is posterior, his back is aligned with yours. So, as he’s descending into your pelvic girdle, his spine will be straight and his head won’t be able to tuck in as efficiently. The end result can be a longer, more difficult labor.
Notice I said “can.”
If your baby is posterior, that does not necessarily mean that your baby is going to get stuck, you’ll need a c-section, or you’ll have a terrible labor. In fact, several moms successfully have vaginal, epidural-free births thanks to the pain-coping techniques they learn in natural birthing classes.
Having said that, your goal should be to improve your chances of having a short, easy labor. If you can do that with a few simple exercises, why not?
How to Tell What Position Your Baby is In
By now, you’re probably wondering, “Hey, this sounds great, but how can I tell what position my baby is in?”
Aside from an ultrasound or a visit to your provider, it’s impossible to say for sure, but there are definitely hints that you can look for.
If you know for sure that your baby is head down, it’s pretty easy to guess his position. When your baby is posterior, your bump may feel a little soft (your baby’s rump will be right against your spine). You may also notice more kicks in your midriff, compared to those “breathtaking” kicks to your ribs an anterior baby dishes out.
If you’re feeling crafty, you can also try belly mapping. Introduced by Spinning Babies, belly mapping is tracking your baby’s kicks with non-toxic paint to create an adorable, real-life picture of your baby.
Determining if your baby is head down or breech is a little trickier. Many women become paranoid that their babies are breech because their baby’s bum is roughly the size of his head.
The best way to know for sure is to check with your provider. Having said that, there are a few anecdotal signs of a breech baby such as a low heartbeat location, hiccups in your upper belly, or kicks to your pelvis.
4 Simple Exercises to TURN Your Baby into a HEAD DOWN Birthing Position
When you try these exercises, keep in mind these main goals: we want to open up your hips and use gravity to encourage your baby into the right birthing position. We also want to release any muscle tension that will hinder your baby from moving into the best birthing position.
In addition to these exercises, you’ll also want to follow these best practices:
- Sleep on your left side
- If you sit on chairs for long periods of time, you must sit upright (try sitting backwards)
- Do not recline for long periods of time
- Keep feet below pelvis if at all possible
The pelvic tilt helps position your baby for labor but it can also help relieve back pain and encourage optimal pelvic floor health.
Pelvic tilts are so easy to do!
First, get on your hands and knees. Arch your back upwards (breathing in like you’re trying to tuck your tummy into your spine.) Hold this position for a few seconds, and release. When you release, you’ll want to make sure that your spine goes back into a straight, neutral position, rather than dipping toward the floor.
A standard set is 10 repetitions, but don’t exert yourself.
Squats will be your best friend before, during, and even after childbirth. It’s also an excellent birthing position (it opens your hips and uses gravity to carry your baby down the birthing canal). After birth, squatting actually strengthens your pelvic floor muscles.
Since your center of gravity is likely way off by the third trimester, you’ll probably need a little additional support to squat. Stand with your back against a wall. Slowly lower into the squat position. You can use an exercise ball if this is difficult.
An ideal squat is where your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are just behind your feet.
Ideally, you’ll want to hold this position for 30 seconds or complete 10 repetitions.
This is, hands down, my favorite exercise. Not only do I attribute hip rotations to helping my baby find her way head down, but it relieved so much of my hip and back pain during my last trimester.
Hip rotations are super simple. Just sit on your exercise ball, making sure that your back is straight and your shoulders are pushed back. Rotate your hips in a wide, circular pattern. Think belly dancing!
If you don’t have an exercise ball, that’s totally cool. Just stand with your feet apart (about the width of your shoulders) and rotate your hips. If you’re having trouble visualizing exactly how wide your hip rotations should be, this video was a lifesaver for me.
Before labor, forward lunges stretch out your muscles and ligaments, relieving any tension that might prevent your baby from moving into the best birthing position. Conversely, a lunge also strengthens those muscles that might have gone lax thanks to your late pregnancy hormones.
Once you’re in labor, you should still definitely keep lunges in mind. Side lunges help open your hips and use gravity to carry your baby downward.
For now, the best way to perform a forward lunge is from the tabletop yoga position. Shift your foot directly in front of you, but make sure you don’t overstretch. By the end of the movement, your knee should be parallel to your ankle.
Once again, 10 repetitions are ideal, but don’t overexert yourself.
With Just 15 Minutes a Day, You Can Help Baby Move Into the Best Position for Birth
Believe me, I know how difficult it can be to walk during the third trimester, let alone exercise. Still, if you can commit to just fifteen minutes a day, your body (and your baby) will thank you. Laboring with a posterior or breech baby is anything but pleasant.
You want to ensure that your birth is as seamless and complication-free as possible by turning your baby into the best, head-down birthing position. I sincerely hope these positions improve your labor experience, Mama. Good luck!
Erin loves helping new and expecting moms have the best motherhood experience they possibly can. At her blog, Blunders in Babyland, you’ll find the easy, practical tips you need to rock your new mom life and raise your baby confidently. Visit today to download free Baby Budgeting Worksheets or follow her on Instagram for quick baby and mommy tips.