Want an Easier Birth? Walk, Move Around, Change Positions Throughout Labor

Research shows that moving freely in labor improves your perception of control and satisfaction, decreases your need for pain medication, and may reduce the length of labor. These reasons are precisely why the second Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice is entitled, “Walk, Move Around, and Change Positions Throughout Labor.”

If moving during labor is a well-known benefit, why bother discussing it? Unfortunately, in the American hospital birth setting, it’s common to restrict or discourage movement during labor. It’s also common for people in labor to have medical interventions, like continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) and/or epidural, which severely limit movement during labor. So what can you do to make sure movement and changing positions is a part of your labor? Learn as much as you can about moving during labor before you give birth and make a plan for success. Here are five suggestions:

1. Take a childbirth class. Not just any childbirth class, of course. Make sure — by calling or emailing the instructor — that a good portion of the class will be spent going over and practicing movement and positions for labor and birth. Lamaze childbirth classes are required to go over this in detail. Make sure that your class also covers movements you can do even with an epidural.

2. No time for class? If you’re too close to your due date for a class, spend time reading, watching videos, and practicing birth movement at home. Lamaze has an informative, short video that talks about the importance of movement during labor. Beyond that, check out The Birth Partner book by Penny Simkin, which provides in detail the many ways you can move during labor. You can also take the online Lamaze courses “Safe and Healthy Birth: Six Simple Steps” and “Labor Pain Management: Tips for Comfort and Coping.”

3. Talk to your OB or midwife and your birth place. Let your care provider know that moving during labor and birth is important to you and ask how they help facilitate and support an active labor and birth. Have a similar conversation with the staff at your hospital or birth center during a tour. Ask how they support a person in labor who plans to get up and move.

4. Stay at home in labor as long as possible. This is where knowledge from a childbirth class comes in handy, as you’ll learn all about the best time to head to your birth place. The longer you stay home in labor, the more freedom you’ll have to move around, and the more likely you’ll feel confident in an environment that’s comforting to you.

5. Hire a doula or prep your birth partner. When you bring to your birth someone who understands the importance of movement during labor and the knowledge on how and when to move in labor, you’re increasing the likelihood that you’ll be well supported and encouraged in your choice for an active labor and birth.

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