I want to start off by saying that I think most women who are allowed to find their own rhythm in birth will do just that! They will find a rhythm and ritual that works best for them as long as they have freedom of movement, are educated and informed of the birth process and well supported. Having said all that, I believe that one of the best things for a women to do in active and sometimes even in late labor is MOVE! Freedom of movement in labor is essential to the process and here are four reasons why:
1. IT MAKES YOU AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN LABOR AND BIRTH: Labor and birth are active processes. Your baby and your body is working together to achieve birth. Waiting around for contractions can diminish your mental resolve. Many of my clients report feeling better when they have something to doing in birth. In the late stages of labor, it's the pushing that gives them something to do. In active labor it's movement. By walking, rocking, "dancing", swaying, or other physical activities, you are working with your body to achieve the goal of birth. It can help to distract you in late phases of early labor and in active labor, while also having great physical benefits.
2. IT HELPS MOVE YOUR BABY INTO MORE OPTIMAL BIRTHING POSITIONS: While I've come to believe that most positions your baby is in during labor are variations of normal, there are more optimal positions for labor and birth. Most will agree that one of the more optimal positions is LOA (Left Occicput Anterior). There are many things you can do to encourage your baby to rotate into that position and lying down on your back is not one of them. Movement, in particular, pelvic tilts, rocking in the hands and knees positions, squats, and lunges are helpful.
3. IT CAN HELP SPEED UP LABOR: The process of labor and birth is greatly benefited by walking and the use of gravity. Gravity can help move the baby down in the birth canal, thus allowing the baby to press down the cervix more as it descends. This in turn helps to dilate the cervix with the pressure from the fetal head that also promotes more oxytocin to be released. Oxytocin is the hormone produced in the female body that causes contractions. The more efficient the contractions a woman has are, the better there are at effectively dilating the cervix. This is how labor can be sped up by walking, standing, and squatting! All movements that utilize the help of gravity!
4. MOVEMENT CAN BE A COMFORT MEASURE FOR BIRTH: Movement, such as walking, rocking, swaying, bouncing on birthing ball, and squatting can all help to decrease the perception of pain, thus making it a comfort measure and labor coping technique. As a woman labors, any tension both during a contraction and after, increases her pain perception level. Effective relaxation techniques help greatly, but so does the use of movement. Through movement, a woman is effectively managing her pain, thus decreasing her stress and tension levels naturally and in turn her pain perception is lessened.
In the end, the goal of birth is always a healthy baby and healthy mom! The journey of birth should be distinct to every woman's ideals and birth vision. Your Journey belongs to you and your baby! Freedom of movement is one way to help you reach your optimal goal of a healthy baby and mom, while also giving you many options to use on that journey. Happy Birthing to all!
Maternal positions and mobility during first stage labour. Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (2) PMID: 19370591
Simkin, P., & Ancheta, R. (2005). The labor progress handbook (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Science.
Simkin, P., Whalley, J., & Keppler, A. (2001) Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn (Expanded & Updated Edition). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.