Why Keep Moving In Labor?
Often when a mother says she experienced horrible pain in her labor, the first question I ask is, "Did you get up and move around, or were you mainly lying in bed throughout labor?" Nine times out of ten she'll respond with something along the lines of, "I was in the bed. I didn't know I could get out. Are you allowed to move around in labor?"
The answer, quite simply, is Yes! Moving your body in response to the intensity of labor is the ideal comfort measure, one with no risks or side effects. Whether your goal is natural childbirth or not, movement is the most effective way of offering physical and emotional relief to a laboring woman.
Physical activity not only offers distraction and pain relief for the laboring woman; it also aids in progressing labor. As the mother walks, squats, lunges, sways, and adjusts to the needs of her body in labor, she allows the pelvis to shift and open to make room for the descending baby. Movement also allows the baby to rotate and descend, achieving optimal fetal positioning, and making her way deep into the pelvis and birth canal. Doing as much as you can to utilize gravity helps move the baby down and progress labor.
What Are Good Ways to Move In Labor?
Some hospitals will allow you to walk the halls, either with intermittent EFM (Electronic Fetal Monitoring) or a telemetry unit. Others will only allow you to walk within your birthing suite. Ask about the specific protocol at your birthing location. If you are not restricted to your bed, consider the following list of ways you can move for comfort and labor progression:
- Swaying or Slow-dancing
- Squatting, with or without support
- Light Stair Climbing
- Rocking in a Rocking Chair
- Sitting, Rocking, Leaning on a Birth Ball
What if My Doctor Says I Can't Move?
Some hospitals and practitioners have specific requirements for laboring women concerning movement and position changes. You will need to inquire about your caregiver’s wishes and that of your birthing location. Your caregiver or hospital may require you to remain in your hospital bed if any of the following occur during your labor (though this doesn't mean there is scientific evidence to restrict movement restrictions in all of the following cases):
- If you have an IV
- If your membranes have ruptured
- If you are in active labor
- If you receive any pain medication
- If you receive an epidural (in which case you will very likely be restricted to the bed, and also receive a urinary catheter)
- If you have high blood pressure or preeclampsia
- If you are high-risk for any other reason
If you are restricted to your hospital bed for any reason, there are still a variety of positions you can utilize to maintain movement and take advantage of gravity, including:
- Hands and knees position – either on all fours or on your knees and leaning forward on a birth ball or the raised head of your bed.
- Sitting upright or tailor sitting
- Sitting on the side or foot of the bed, leaning against partner or doula
- Exaggerated side lying or “Texas roll” position with one leg raised and resting on pillows or the hospital stirrups.