The traditional TV and movie trope of a woman in labor inevitably shows her flat on her back in bed, struggling through the arduous task. But many women find movement during labor to be very helpful in reducing pain and shortening labor. Why does movement help and how can we maximize the amount we move?

Changing position frequently during labor encourages the bones of the pelvis to shift to help the baby fit through the birth canal. An upright position, in contrast to lying down, makes use of gravity to help the baby move down. Women who move in labor experience on average shorter labors, less pain and less need for pain medication.

Yet, despite these benefits, thanks to the prominence of the bed in hospital laboring rooms, IVs, epidurals, and continuous fetal monitoring, movement during labor is often not encouraged or quite difficult to do. So what can you do if you would like to move during labor but are not sure if you’ll be able to

How to Incorporate Movement

First of all, a birthing class is a great way to learn about and practice some various movements or positions you might try during labor. We offer a Comfort Measures class which discusses movement and labor positions, and we go beyond the typical birth ball and simply laying on your side. Practicing different positions will make you more comfortable trying out different movements on the big day. Secondly, if your medical team suggests interventions that will restrict your movements, you can ask why (or if) they are medically necessary. You may be able to avoid some interventions or be monitored intermittently instead of continuously, for example. Some local hospitals may require an order from your provider before you can labor out of bed. Our doulas can discuss this with you at one of your two prenatal visits to determine what your options are. Finally, if monitoring or other interventions are medically necessary, you can still move! You may be able to sit on a yoga ball or in a chair next to the bed or move in the bed from your side to sitting on the edge, squatting or leaning over the back of the bed, especially with the help of your doula. Movement is even possible with an epidural!

Evidence says movement is beneficial and it is our job to support you through position changes and other forms of movement. You don’t need to try and remember everything–that’s near impossible to do while in labor and expends energy you need for other things. Hire us and we’ll do that mental work for you.

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