Your baby’s position and helping your baby turn

Believe it or not, simply slouching at a desk could affect the way you give birth. You need to help your baby adopt the right position

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Every modern mum-to-be has heard the voice of well-meaning future grannies offering advice on pregnancy and birth. “When I had you, I never had a cleaner to help me out,” or “Back in my day, I was never off my feet.” But they’re right about one thing – staying active can do your pregnancy and birth a world of good.

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Office space

Gone are the ‘good old days’ of active pregnancy. Modern lifestyles mean many mums-to-be spend their 9 to 5 slouched at their office desks, often working late, and then return home to slump on the sofa in an exhausted heap, right up to their due date. Not only is this unhelpful in preparing your body for the task of labour, but it also has an affect on your developing baby. Poor posture and inactivity are causing increasing numbers of babies to settle in the wrong position in the womb, leading to pregnancy discomfort and a more tricky birth.

“The sedentary positions mums-to-be are adopting don’t allow the baby the full space of the uterus,” explains chiropractor Penny Nelmes from the McTimoney Chiropractic Association. “Women whose babies are in the wrong position tend to have very tidy bumps, because the bulk of the baby is in their back. Ideally however, women should have a big bump to give their baby space to manoeuvre.”

Heads down

For a straightforward birth, your baby’s head should be pointing downwards and his spine facing your left side. This is known as occiput anterior (LOA) position. However, if your baby is breech (bottom down), or head down but facing your tummy – occiput posterior (OP) position – this increases your chances of a difficult birth, and can affect whether or not you have a vaginal birth.

A study carried out in 2000 found that a planned caesarean was safer than a vaginal birth for breech delivery. And while this doesn’t rule out a vaginal delivery, finding an obstetrician who has enough experience to offer breech delivery may be difficult. If your baby is OP you can still have a vaginal delivery, but the birth may well be a tough one. “In the OP position, your baby can’t flex his neck and curl up to enter the pelvis, known as ‘engaging’,” explains Penny.

Don’t despair, though: if your baby is in the wrong position, there are signs during pregnancy that can let you know.

If your baby is restless and you’re experiencing a lot of discomfort, you’re being pummelled in one particular place and your abdomen feels pressured or you’re experiencing back, hip and thigh pain, this could indicate poor positioning. “However, the problem is that these things are so common in pregnancy that they are considered normal,” says Penny, “and can sometimes be ignored.” But if you think your little one is trying to tell you something, there are methods you can try to help him turn…

Moxibustion

What is it?

Moxa, a herb used by the Chinese since ancient times, is formed into sticks, which are then burned by acupuncture points on the foot.

How does it work?

“If a woman is diagnosed with breech presentation, moxa can be lit and wafted over an acupuncture point at the end of the little toe on both feet simultaneously,” explains acupuncturist Dinah Tetlow. “The herb warms the energy along the acupuncture channel, which stimulates the womb and encourages the foetus to turn.”

Is it safe?

Yes, unless you have a history of pregnancy complications such as bleeding, pre-eclampsia, abnormality of the uterus, premature labour, previous c-section.

When’s the best time to try it?

Between 34 and 36 weeks.

McTimoney Chiropractic

What is it?

A gentle method of adjusting the bones in your body in order to relieve pain and restore movement.

How does it work?

“An experienced chiropractor will be able to pick up symptoms if your baby is in the wrong position,” says Penny. “Regular, gentle pelvic and spinal manipulation, together with stretching techniques, will relieve discomfort, optimise uterine space for the development of your baby and promote normal vaginal delivery.”

Is it safe?

Yes.

When’s the best time to try it?

From 12 weeks.

Reflexology

What is it?

Reflexology claims that the body is mapped in the hands and feet and works on the principle that tension or blockages in what are called ‘reflex points’ in the feet correspond to a condition in the related part of the body.

How does it work?

Zahida Parveen, from Heart & Sole Therapy says: “It uses the same principle as acupuncture, but uses hands rather than needles. I work on the areas that relate to the pelvis and hip, uterus and ovary to perform a ‘turn’. It’s a combination of the physical and mental – the mother has to want her baby to turn and be open to the idea to help it happen. It usually takes a couple of treatments.”

Is it safe?

Yes, with a qualified practitioner

When’s the best time to try it?

Between 33 and 34 weeks.

The old fashioned way

What is it?

Having an active pregnancy.

How it works?

Getting gravity on your side will make a real difference – just being upright will encourage your baby to move into position. Fertility expert Zita West explains “Women tend to be on their knees scrubbing the kitchen floor on their due date but nowadays they’re usually slouched at a desk, which doesn’t help the baby’s position. You need to get active.”

Is it safe?

Yes.

When’s the best time?

You should exercise gently throughout pregnancy, taking advise from your midwife as to what’s safe.

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Penny’s tips for perfect position

  • After 34 weeks, always sit with your knees below your hips.
  • Sit on a wedge shaped cushion to push your body forwards.
  • Straddle a reversed dining chair, leaning forward, knees apart, with your front resting on the back of the chair.
  • Kneel on all fours over a beanbag while watching TV.
  • Lie on your left side in bed, with a pillow between your knees.
  • Try to avoid lying on your back during labour as this interferes with pelvic opening and the descent of the baby.

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