Many people think of labor as a woman confined to a hospital bed, often hooked up to an IV and wearing fetal monitoring belts around her belly. But Lamaze International, longtime advocates and educators of natural childbirth, insist that confined labor isn’t ideal.
“The best way to keep your baby moving down and out is to keep your own body in motion.” Says Marilyn Curl, president of Lamaze International. “Being confined to bed, tethered to monitors and IVs interferes with the body’s ability to move the baby through the pelvic bones and down the birth canal.”
Lamaze cites several studies revealing that allowing women to walk, move around or change positions during labor may reduce pain and the need for pain medications, length of labor, the need for continuous fetal monitoring, Cesarean surgeries and even the likelihood for an episiotomy or use of vacuum forceps.
Lamaze advocates believe that staying upright during labor allows gravity to aid the body’s natural efforts to open the pelvic bones. Women confined to lying in bed lose this advantage, these advocates say.
How do you avoid unnecessary confinement to bed during labor?
Lamaze International offers this advice:
• Choose a care provider who supports mobility during labor.
• Know the facts on fetal monitoring. In low-risk mothers, research shows that occasional monitoring is just as safe as continual monitoring.
• Know the facts about epidurals. Sometimes switching positions can help move babies – and labor – along. An epidural is well known for reducing labor pain, but it also renders the mother nearly immobile.
• Choose the right support. Find a doula or labor support person to help you keep moving and help you manage each and every contraction.
• Use a birthing ball when you need a rest. You may need to bring your own if your hospital doesn’t usually support women laboring in upright positions.
• Consider staying upright during the pushing phase, too. Again, Lamaze advocates believe that lying back down during the pushing phase will “shrink the pelvis and make it harder to push the baby out.”