Q: I’m birthing in a hospital, but I don’t want to have to be on my back in bed. What are my options?
A: It sounds like you already know the benefits of freedom of movement in labor and birth. Standing up, for example, allows gravity to help put the baby’s head on your cervix. Research continues to show that restricting women’s movement during labor may result in worse birth outcomes.
Because each facility has different rules, the hospital where you plan to deliver will have the best answers for you. Women often talk with their doctors or midwives about these concerns, but neglect to find out what’s allowed once they’re checked in. If the hospital supports it, your doula can teach you to reposition the hospital bed so you can squat and hold the top of the bed or be on all fours. You may also be able to bring along inflatable fitness balls for you and your partner to use for labor support.
But don’t wait until labor begins to find out whether freedom of movement will be possible for you. It is one of the most medically valid questions you can discuss ahead of time. Although media images portray laboring women in bed, active birth positions make contractions more efficient and shorten labor, as well as provide greater comfort and less chance of intervention.