When asked about labor positions, many women assume that they will give birth on their backs, feet in the air. The delivery bed is indeed the most common labor position in the United States, however it’s not the only birthing position available! In fact, research suggests that other birthing positions, particularly those that work with gravity reduce labor time and make the labor process itself less laborious. Let’s take a look at some places you can give birth.
Although this image is most common, it’s actually one of the most difficult ways to give birth. In this position, a woman works against gravity, which means each push is more difficult. The function of contractions are to open the body to allow the baby to fit through the birth canal. In a reclined position, the body must work harder to accomplish this. Because of the stress of this position, episiotomies are more likely to occur. There are benefits to delivery beds however, including easier access for your doctors and nurses to assist with the birth.
It’s also important to know that if you receive a regular epidural as opposed to a walking epidural that you will be confined to a bed for your safety. A full epidural completely numbs the legs and movement becomes too dangerous.
Bean Bag Chair
Sound weird? Not as weird as you may think. Bean bags are a wonderful tool to aid a laboring mother. The soft balls within the chair allows for great support in a variety of birth positions. Instead of using pillows, which can shift into uncomfortable positions and need adjustment, the bean bag chair can be used to support a mother whether she’d like to sit and recline, squat, or kneel on all fours. It can be placed on the floor, on a bed, or in water (if it has a resistant cover). During delivery, bean bags are used to support the upper body, while gravity takes care of the rest!
Water births have become more popular over the past several decades. Advocates of water births believe that this birth method reduces stress on the body through both warmth and buoyancy. Additionally, the warm water can improve blood flow and relax the muscles, making contractions and pushing easier. Some hospitals offer water birth as an option, and most birthing centers offer it as well. Many midwives can provide a portable tub for home births as well.
The main risk associated with water births is contaminated water. If the inflatable tub used for water birth is not properly cleaned, the mother or baby could be at risk of an infection. Although such infections have occurred, they are not very common.
Cesarean surgeries, or C-sections, are considered to be a major surgery. Two kinds of C-sections exist: elective and emergency. Women can schedule a C-section instead of delivering naturally, and this is called an elective C-section. Emergency C-sections are unplanned and occur due to complications during a natural delivery. Cesareans involve two incisions: one through the abdominal muscles and another into the uterus. After removing the baby, both incisions are sutured closed. Typically recovery time is 4-6 weeks. Women may elect to have cesareans for medical or personal reasons. OBs typically recommend scheduling cesareans for women who have previously given birth by cesarean due to scar tissue, women who are delivering multiple babies, or women who are having a large baby.
How you choose to deliver your baby is up to you; however, it is important to know that not all options may be available at hospitals. Many hospitals limit options due to liability; some hospitals only offer delivery bed and require women to give birth in specific positions. Thankfully, you have nine months to consider your options, interview OBs or midwives and tour facilities!