The Care Quality Commission recently published its survey of women’s experiences of maternity services. There was a lot of good news: the findings showed that women have more choice over where they give birth and are more likely to have antenatal appointments with a midwife they know and trust.
However, it also showed that the number of women giving birth lying on their backs with legs in stirrups has risen over the past ten years. Rightly, the CQC report quotes official NICE guidance that this practice is generally not recommended, unless a woman needs an ‘assisted’ birth with forceps.
This is often the position you see women giving birth in, on TV and in films, but in fact it’s not always comfortable or dignified and, most importantly, not the best for enabling the baby to come out.
The reason for this is the baby’s head is round so it needs the birth canal to be in a rounded shape to pass through most easily. When a woman is lying on her back the shape of the birth canal is flattened and the space is narrowed, making it harder or impossible for the baby to pass through. Being in an upright position means that you have gravity will help the baby out.
Here are some tips that may help make your labour easier, shorter and more comfortable:
• Although most birth rooms have a bed, you don’t have to lie on it - labour may slow down if you lie on your back. Instead, kneel or sit up and lean forward with each contraction, supported on pillows if you like.
• Sitting on a birth ball or rocking chair might be more comfortable than being on a bed.
• If you can use a birthing pool, leaning on the side with the water providing buoyancy for your body is a great way to keep upright in an easily flexible position
• Try to keep your feet lower than your bottom. This will help keep your pelvis open making more room for your baby to move through. Make use of whatever is available to help you stay upright.
• To help your baby ease down into your pelvis try swaying your hips from side to side against the wall or by holding on to an open door.
• If progress in early labour slows down and you are concerned, try walking around. Walking upstairs sideways or kneeling on one knee can help your baby move into a good position.
Antenatal and Postnatal classes at The Baby Show
NCT is The Baby Show’s official charity and will be providing antenatal and postnatal classes at the show. As well Birth choices and labour, other taster sessions include Top pain management techniques during labour, A step-by-step guide to breastfeeding, The new parent survival guide to practical babycare and The new parent survival guide to sleep, crying and calming. Find out more.
Becoming a parent can be a steep learning curve, so NCT is there for you – whatever the challenges of pregnancy and parenthood. NCT is the place to go for independent information, birth and parenting classes, practical support, and new mum and dad friends.
Why do new parents choose to do an NCT antenatal course? Because research shows that after doing an NCT course, 91% of mums-to-be said they felt more confident about making labour, birth and early parenting decisions. Nearly all mums who took part (94%) said that they felt supported by other parents on their course, and 96% said that they would stay in touch afterwards. NCT courses are good for dads and partners too. Almost 95% of those attended said they were more confident about caring for and feeding their baby.