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The Best Way to Labor & Birth Your Baby

By By Michele L. Deck, RN, MEd, BSN, LCCE, FACCE

Gravity is your friend; laboring upright and in motion will help your baby move down and out.

Close your eyes and imagine you’re in labor. If you picture the scene as it occurs regularly in movies and on TV, you probably see yourself lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV and wearing belts around your belly to continuously monitor your baby’s heartbeat and the contractions.
What’s wrong with this picture? A lot, according to research.

The Best Way to Labor

The best way to keep your baby moving down and out is to keep your own body in motion, say the experts at Lamaze International, an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting a natural, healthy and safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting.
Many hospitals and birthing facilities have routine protocols, such as requiring continuous fetal monitoring, that inadvertently limit your movement in labor. If you’re using an epidural, for example, you’ll typically need to remain in bed.
Research regarding moving around in labor show that women who are encouraged to walk, move around, or change positions during labor may experience:
• Less severe pain
• Less need for pain medications, such as epidurals and narcotics
• Shorter labors
• Less continuous monitoring
• Fewer cesarean surgeries
• Lower likelihood for an episiotomy and use of vacuum extraction or forceps
Staying upright during labor means that gravity can aid your body’s natural efforts as it lets your pelvic bones open as much as possible.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you want in labor and birth. It’s difficult to go against hospital or birth center routines. The easier the birth is for you and your baby, the better the chances of a safe and healthy outcome for both of you.

Find a Labor-Friendly Healthcare Provider
• Choose a care provider who supports ‘mobile moms’—ask what percentage of their patients stay mobile during labor
• Know the facts on fetal monitoring—in low-risk mothers, research shows that occasional checks of the baby’s heart rate are just as safe as constant monitoring
• Choose the right support—a doula or labor support person can help you stay moving and help you manage each contraction
• Use a birthing ball when you need a rest—you may need to bring your own, since many hospitals and birthing centers may not support women laboring in upright positions
• Stay upright during pushing—many care providers put you on their your or bottom during pushing, but these positions shrink the pelvis and make it harder to push the baby out

6 Healthy Birth Practices
• Let labor begin on its own
• Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor
• Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support
• Avoid interventions that aren’t medically necessary
• Avoid giving birth on your back; follow your body’s urges to push
• Request to be kept together with your baby at all times; it’s best for you, baby and for breastfeeding

Michele L. Deck, RN, MEd, BSN, LCCE, FACCE, is a childbirth educator and a former president of Lamaze International.

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