Encouraging Optimal Foetal Position – GUEST BLOG, written by Grace Lillywhite, Founder of Centred Mums Pilates and Wellbeing
How daily movement can guide your baby into the perfect place for birth.
The position of your baby in the womb can have a huge impact on the way your labour progresses. It is often assumed that if baby is head down, then they are in the perfect position for birth, but in reality, small changes to way your baby is situated can improve your birth outcome and speed up your labour. If they have their chin slightly lifted or head at an angle this can make it more difficult for them to move through your pelvis and encourage your cervix to dilate.
There are many things you can do during your pregnancy to create room for your baby to move into the perfect position to be born. This advice is even more important if you find that your baby is: Transverse – lying sideways. Breech – head up. Or back-to-back – lying with its spine against yours. The guidance in this blog is designed to give your baby as much space as possible to move into an ideal place for birth. And, whilst that can only be a good thing, it is also important to remember that your baby is very wise, and knows what it needs, sometimes they get into their position for a reason and you should never feel that you are ultimately responsible for your baby’s position. Anecdotally, there has been a rise in breech babies over lockdown. One of the reasons for this, could be the more sedentary lifestyles we are all currently living.
Here are some things to bear in mind:
Do what you can to promote balance in your body. No one is perfectly balanced. But by taking care to distribute your weight evenly through your feet, and ensuring that you don’t sit with your legs crossed – you can create more balance in your body, which in turn will help you to feel more comfortable throughout your pregnancy and allow your body to function better. Make your posture work for you! When your bones are aligned your body can function in a way that is better for both you and your baby. When you slouch, and sit on the back of your pelvis, you shorten and tighten your pelvic floor – preventing it from functioning effectively, which is especially important during a vaginal birth. Try to sit with your knees lower than the level of your hips, so that – once it is big enough! -your belly can be lower than your hips too. By sitting on the front of your ‘sit bones’ you encourage your pelvic floor to function better and give your baby more space to move and get into a position that will help the birth process.
Move, move and then move some more! If you can keep your pelvis balanced and mobile throughout pregnancy, your body will thank you when it comes to giving birth! You’ll find that your pelvic opens more easily and allows full mobility of the four pelvic joints. I can’t stress enough how important it is to walk throughout your pregnancy – walk as much as you can – it promotes both flexibility and stability. And a consistent amount of daily movement, combined with specialist pregnancy Pilates, yoga or exercise classes, can also support length and tone within your muscular structure, keep your pelvis aligned and assist with the engaging and descent of the baby.
Once you are in labour, staying active is just as important, movement – such as gentle walking – will continue to aid your baby’s descent into your pelvis and help your body to stay relaxed. Some top tips for daily movement and exercise that will optimise your baby’s position: Walk every day
Work yourself up to 3-miles a day if you can. If your body doesn’t like it then don’t force it, just do what feels good for you. And do listen to your health professional’s advice if you have PGP or have been advised to rest. Be mindful of jaw release. There is an important relationship between the jaw and the pelvis. Many of us hold tension in our jaw and relaxing this muscle is really important. Start to be more mindful of whether you are gritting your teeth or tensing your jaw muscles. Use your fingers to massage into your jaw muscles for 2-minutes every single day. Begin simple exercises to gentle stretch and mobilise your muscles
Try to do the following exercises every day:
Neck rolls – Roll your head to the right and left 5-10 times.
Elbow circles and arm circles – Bring your hands to your shoulders and make big circles with your elbows, making sure that you are mobilising your shoulder blades as you move.
Then, to mobilise your ribcage, circle your arms and do side bends.
Thoracic rotation – On all fours, bring your right hand to your shoulder and lift your elbow up to the ceiling, allowing your ribcage to rotate with you. Then go the other way. Repeat this movement 5 times on each side.
Calf stretches – Put the ball of your foot onto a rolled-up yoga mat or towel and allow your heel to drop back to the floor. Ensure your knee is kept fairly straight but not locked. Repeat this movement on the other side.
Glute release – Standing up against a wall, take a spiky ball or a tennis ball and massage it into your bum cheek. Your pelvic floor and gluts are really connected, so releasing the glutes can also help to reduce pelvic floor tension. Look for a tight spot at the top of your bum cheek, this is your piriformis which runs from your lower back to the inside of your hip and is often an area of tension.
Glute stretch – Sit on the front of your sit bones with both feet on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and allow the right knee to fall. Make sure your sit bones stay connected to the chair. Stay very conscious of how your pubic bone feels – if it is aggravated at all, then you may need to skip this one.
Psoas release – Stand with one foot on a stair and allow your other leg to hang, gently swing your leg allowing it to be heavy as it swings. Stay there gently releasing the hip joint for a few minutes then do the other side. Again, be mindful of how your pubic bone feels as single leg work doesn’t work for everyone during pregnancy.
Centred Mums Pregnancy Pilates classes use restorative Pilates and yoga-based movement to address postural changes and demands throughout each trimester. We can help you to maintain strength, connect you to your breath and relieve tension in your body. As we work through the exercises mentioned above, we will help you to increase your understanding of the way your body functions and naturally create space for your baby to move and to grow.
Our pregnancy Pilates classes will introduce you to positions for labour, breathing techniques and other support to prepare your body and mind for your birthing experience and beyond. You will create a new awareness of your pelvic floor and abdominals and create a foundation of deep abdominal strength that will support your baby during your pregnancy and in your postnatal recovery. We have lots of experience in working with pregnancy-related conditions including diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction (including prolapse), pelvic girdle pain, sciatica, back and neck problems and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Please feel free to contact me for any further information. Pilates and Osteopathy go so beautifully together, especially during pregnancy and postnatally. I work with the osteopaths here at Herts Osteopathy often, for the best outcomes for our mutual patients and clients, and feel that women really appreciate and benefit from both.
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Thank you so much for reading,
Founder and Lead Pilates Practitioner at Centred Mums Pilates and Wellbeing, St. Albans.