I'm sure you heard of one or all of these if you've made it to this page:
- Belly Mapping
- Pelvic Alignment
- Optimal Fetal Positioning
- Back Labor
- Prodromal Labor
- Long Labor
I'm sure you're probably asking one of these questions:
- What is belly mapping?
- How to belly map?
- How to flip a breech?
- How to VBAC?
- How to get baby in a good position?
- How to avoid back labor?
- How to avoid a long labor?
- and so on and so forth...
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Pelvic Alignment & Fetal Position
The position of your body, you guessed it, creates the position of baby's body. From fetal development to their ability to move through your pelvis and soft tissue, alignment matters.
- Move in a variety of [aligned] positions throughout the day
- Go to a physical therapist who is restorative exercise savvy, or otherwise doesn't tout kegels as the only way of get ready for birth.
- Get aligned - not just by a chiropractor, but all the soft tissue as well
- Learn aligned body movements
- Get abdominal massages regularly to loosen up the tissue and encourage baby to be in an optimal position
Stomach Sleeping and Pelvic Health
If you're a stomach sleeper, chances are your pelvic is out of whack. Actually, if you're a side sleeper, this is likely the case as well, especially if you favor one side or the other.
- Stomach sleeping rocks the top of the pelvis forward making it more likely for baby to be in a funky position and you to experience back pain
- Stomach sleeping, because of the aforementioned issue, can contribute to pelvic floor health, and sneeze peeing
- Sleeping on your back with a flat back position can also tilt your pelvis, so be sure you keep that curve in your spine and your ASIS aligned with your pubic bone (horizontal plane to your sleep surface, which shouldn't be overly squishy)
- Don't use a pillow too much. Not totally specific to pregnancy, but this raised position can contribute to back pain, future neck pain, headaches, and upper body health - which is connected to your mid and lower body health, e.g. the pelvis. You may need to slowly wean yourself off a pillow (and try not to get this started in your kids, either)
- Alternating positions throughout the night, and using body support pillows, can be helpful during pregnancy, especially if transitioning from a padded pillow and squishy sleep surface to a sleep environment that encourages your body to do most of the supporting.
Fetal Position & Comfortable Birth
Now that you see that your pelvic and body alignment contributes to fetal position, what's this mean for the birth? Everything. Your stress levels, your movement, your nutrition will all influence your body's ability to release, move, and let baby move through the pelvis and soft tissue. Discomfort during birth is most often due to stress emotionally (increasing adrenaline and tension), and tension and misalignment of the pelvis and soft tissue.
- Fetal position can influence baby's ability to move through the pelvis
- Birth in a biologically supportive environment that allows a lot of patience and a lot of instincts and movement
- Get aligned and physical therapy support
- Learn how to belly map and determine baby's position
- Use movements and techniques that support a good position in baby
- If you sit, sit up on your sitz bones and move your legs in a variety of positions
- Get out of the heels (evening the seemingly 'flat' ones)
- Walk, aligned, a LOT - Strive for 3-5 miles daily on average
- Belly dance, or just move your pelvis a lot
- Vary your positions all throughout the day
- Use straight leg stretching positions, don't overdo the bent legs
- Stretch daily, hamstrings, back, pelvis...etc.
- Do a side-lying release (both legs) at least once a day
- Release tension and stress to allow your body to flex and be mobile
Fetal Position & Breastfeeding
Baby is growing inside of you, in whatever shape you're putting them in. Ever used a cookie cutter to let a cucumber grow in? It will take the shape - really neat heart-shaped cucumber slices! Cute for cucumbers, not so much for postpartum comfort.
- Funky fetal positions can mean difficult birth
- Difficult birth can mean difficult breastfeeding and healing
- Baby's muscles can get tight and not allow baby's head to turn and jaw to move as needed
- Tight muscles can cause pain, problems sleeping, problems eating, colick...etc.
- Tight muscles can mimic tongue tie
- Funky breastfeeding positions and shallow latch can cause painful breastfeeding, cracked and bleeding nipples, and make moms want to stop breastfeeding
- Osteopathic manipulation, cranio sacral therapy, and other body work methods postpartum REGULARLY can relieve tension and with adequate support, breastfeeding can become enjoyable and long term
- Bodywork MUST continue even with a surgical tie release
How to do Belly Mapping
So, now that you know the importance of fetal position, how do you monitor baby's position daily to know if you need to work to keep baby in a good position or move baby into a better position? After about 20 weeks, you can begin to palpate and feel baby through your belly. This will be much easier as baby grows, but its good to get an idea of what you're looking for early on if possible.
Belly mapping allows you to know how baby is positioned, but also gets you intimate with your body and improves your ability to listen to your instincts. While prenatal appointments can really help with this, the more confidence you have in your own abilities, the less you feel at the mercy of others and the more this improves your ability to make confident decisions during your birth.
- Be in some place quiet
- Pull up your shirt
- Get a skin-safe marker or natural earth paints (or just a piece of paper with a belly drawn on it)
- If you're using a piece of paper, hold the circle up to your belly, place a dot for a belly button, and note which side is the left side, and which side is the vaginal opening
- Now, on your belly (or piece of paper) you can draw quadrants and segment your belly into four segments with a large plus sign. This will show two quadrants above, and two quadrants below
- Now, listen and palpate.
- If you've recently had a prenatal, or own a fetoscope, you can easily determine where the heartbeat is most easily found. Draw a "heart" wherever this is most easily found.
- Feel through your uterus at the lumps. Draw a circle for the largest hardest lump you feel on your belly (or on the same place on the piece of paper). This is likely the head.
- The next large lump, draw an "m", this is likely the bum.
- A long hard place can be indicated with a long half circle line, indicating the back.
- If you feel big kicks, write a "k" for the feet or knees.
- If you feel tiny wiggles or tickles, write a "w" to indicate the hands.
Now, look at your map. You may notice you feel a lot of kicks and wiggles in the front of your belly, and can't feel much of the other lumps. Baby's back is likely aligned with your back. Maybe they're sideways or they change every day or every moment. Are you noticing this? Great! Now you can understand the position your baby is in, get a good idea of how they may be influencing your comfort levels, and determine if there are methods to improve comfort and position if needed.
The position we're looking for ideally is "LOA" - Left Occiput Anterior. This means the baby's occiput (back of their head) is towards your left side, and a little anterior (towards your front). Your belly map would look a little similar to the image below. Anything different from this is a good indicator that some stretching, releasing, bodywork, walking, varied movement...etc., can be helpful.
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What position is your baby in? Need help determining? Have questions where to go from here if your baby isn't in an LOA position? Get in touch - some one on one doula mentoring can be really helpful in providing you with physical and emotional support for belly mapping and optimal fetal positioning.