Preparing your body for labour

October 4, 2013

You may be busily picking out colours for the nursery and shopping for baby sleeping bags but your baby’s first home isn’t inside the cot – it’s inside you. Your abdominal muscles, spine, ribs and pelvic floor are the walls of your baby’s home and we are here to try and make it as spacious and comfortable as possible to ensure the least strain is through your body and your baby’s during its nine months in-utero.

Osteopaths are keen to see how biomechanical factors in your spine, pelvis and hips, together with the tension around your uterus might influence the position of your baby in late pregnancy. Releasing these tensions is thought to make the mechanical environment as accommodating as possible, thereby allowing your baby to align itself in the most optimal position for a natural delivery and hopefully prevent a breech baby or delivery with ventouse or forceps.

Pregnant patients who received osteopathic care pre-term, experienced improved outcomes in labour and delivery compared to those who didn’t (1)

Below are some suggestions which you might try to help loosen up the most common mechanics restrictions to allow your baby to move in to the best position:

• Kneel on all-fours and perform pelvic rocking movements. This uses the force of gravity and the natural fluid environment of your uterus to allow your baby’s back to settle towards your front, rather than back-to-back

• Watch TV while kneeling on the floor, over a beanbag or cushions, or sit on a dining chair. Try sitting on a dining chair facing (leaning on) the back as well

• Use yoga positions while resting, reading or watching TV – for example, tailor pose (sitting with your back upright and soles of the feet together, knees out to the sides)

• Sit on a wedge cushion in the car, so that your pelvis is tilted forwards. Keep the seat back upright

• Don’t cross your legs! This reduces the space at the front of the pelvis, and opens it up at the back. For good positioning, the baby needs to have lots of space at the front as well

• Don’t put your feet up! Lying back with your feet up encourages back-to-back positioning.

• Sleep on your side, not on your back

• Avoid deep squatting until you know your baby is the right way round. Squatting opens up the pelvis and encourages the baby to move down

• Swimming with your belly downwards is said to be very good for positioning babies – not backstroke, but lots of breaststroke and front crawl. Breaststroke in particular is thought to help with good positioning, because all those leg movements help open your pelvis and settle the baby downwards

• Nothing to do with baby positioning, but… if you’re swimming, make sure you have goggles so you can swim in a good position, with your face partially or wholly in the water as you dip down. Doing breaststroke with your neck craned, holding your face out of the water, can put strain on your neck and back at any time, let alone in pregnancy when ligaments are loose

• Bouncing and moving on a birth ball can encourage good positioning, both before and during labour

Osteopaths often work with mums-to-be who have breech babies and preparing for an ECV. By releasing any structural tensions around the spine, pelvis and abdomen they may help promote a more successful turning of your baby.

(1) King HH, Tettambel MA, Lockwood MD, Johnson KH, Arsenault A, Quist R. Osteopathic manipulative treatment in pre natal care: a retrospective case control design study. JAOA. 2003;103(12):577 582

Felicity Bertin is a registered Osteopath with post-graduate training in Cranial, Obstetric and Paediatric Osteopathy. She lectures in Embryology, Developmental Biology and Neuro-Musculo-Skeletal Medicine on the Masters in Osteopathy course at the British School of Osteopathy. She specialises in working with children with feeding difficulties and supports a team of lactation consultants and tongue-tie practitioners with “bodywork”, offering a biomechanical approach to breastfeeding difficulties. She has co-authored two books on children’s eating and works closely with a psychological therapist to give support to these families. She can be contacted at osteopathy@


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