Many people don’t realize it, but the right labor position can minimize trauma and help prevent injuries such as hip separation, low back trauma, and tailbone pain. As a physical therapist specializing in women’s health, I deal with trauma and injury from labor and delivery on a day-to-day basis.
I see women struggling to take care of their children because of the pain that they still have, months after the delivery of their babies. I treat women suffering from postpartum perineal tears, which are tears that occur in the area between the vagina and rectum, severe back pain, abdominal separation and disc herniation, displaced bones, organ prolapses and many other conditions. This pain may or may have not been present during the pregnancy, but the labor process has either brought it to the surface or has created a new injury.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST LABOR POSITION
Physical therapists are uniquely equipped to make recommendations for birthing. We understand the pelvic floor muscles, the abdominal muscles and what positions pose a threat to the body. I developed a chart (see below) to outline different birth positions along with recommendations for how to avoid exacerbating an old injury and to prevent a new injury from occurring. You can share the chart with your doctor or midwife to determine which birth position will help you prevent a perineal tear or if have a pre-existing low-back disk bulge or herniation.
These recommendations are mostly upright labor positions that use gravity to get the baby out and maintain the spine in optimal alignment. There are some positions that are considered to be safer than others. For example, the side-lying position is the go-to position if you have a preexisting condition such as hipbone separation. I highlight the side-lying position because I find this position to be the easiest on the pregnant woman’s body. Practice the different positions with your birth partner before the big day so that everyone is well versed on how to do them.
Excerpted from Ending Pain in Pregnancy by Isa Herrera, MSPT, CSCS. Ending Pain in Pregnancy offers women techniques to manage chronic vaginal, pelvic, sexual and lower back pain during and post pregnancy, as well as during birth. The book also includes information on optimal labor positions and TENS therapy for natural pain relief. The best part is all the techniques in the book can be done at home.
Isa Herrera, MSPT, is a physiotherapist and clinical director at Renew Physical Therapy Center in New York City, where she specializes in pre- and post-natal care and pelvic floor issues. Her new book, Ending Pain in Pregnancy helps women stay strong and pain free while preparing and recovering from labor and delivery. Visit her website for more information or to order the book.