Moving for an Easier Birth

Moving for an Easier Birth

Treat’s midwife in residence Molly O’Brien discusses problems she encounters regularly in her work and the techniques she uses to give women the best possible chance of experiencing a normal natural birth.

“Good beginnings make a positive difference in the world, so it is worth our while to provide the best possible care for mothers and babies throughout this extraordinarily influential part of life”

Ina May Gaskin – Midwife

There's no doubt that everyone wants a healthy baby but it’s equally important to have a healthy mother. A mother who has had a positive, dare I say, joyful experience of birth will make an easier recovery and feel stronger and more powerful in her adjustment to motherhood.

Is this what we're seeing? Unfortunately, no. Physiological birth rates are low. Medicalised, caesarean birth and instrumental births are rising. Many of these interventions are avoidable. WHO advises caesarean birth should be no more than 14 or 15% yet we are commonly witnessing rates of more than 30%.

What lies behind the steep rise in cesareans and other interventions? Malposition (for example, your baby being back to back or with his or her head positioned awkwardly in your pelvis) is one of the main factors leading to medical interventions which can include some or all of the following:

  • artificial rupture of the membranes
  • oxytocic augmentation
  • Increased use of pain relief such as epidural
  • continuous monitoring
  • restricted movement
  • restricted diet
  • instrumental birth
  • lithotomy position
  • episiotomy
  • caesarean birth

Midwives often say to mothers that baby is ‘naughty’ or awkward when malposition slows down or causes a painful and protracted labour. The problem  has not been caused by the baby.  For example, if the mother's pelvic floor has some twist or tightness it reduces space for the baby and he or she will contort themselves into a position that works for that situation - resulting in a malposition. It’s not the baby's “fault” but most commonly - an imbalance in the pelvis that can cause a malposition, like a posterior position, a presentation also associated with modern lifestyles, that often makes labour difficult.

In my practice I have trained in and developed simple exercises and  techniques that use a knowledge of biomechanics (how the musculoskeletal system works in relation to movement) to help women in pregnancy and in labour. I can’t guarantee they will always work - but they often do - sometimes almost like magic! They have proved so effective that I am teaching other midwives and obstetricians to use these techniques.

I also felt that it could be really helpful for mums to be to learn these “tricks of the trade” and have developed a Moving for an Easier Birth course for pregnant women to learn these techniques for themselves. These are exercises and postures that can help resolve malposition in a gentle and logical way. They are easy to do and can help reduce long, hard, painful labours that mothers often suffer when their babies are in a malposition.

These include:

  • Rebozo (shawl)
  • Movement
  • Postures and positions that release muscle tension, tight ligaments and help align the baby
  • Upright positions
  • Birth balls
  • Peanut ball
  • Massage
  • Strategies that support neuro hormonal balance

These techniques can help your baby navigate the journey through the pelvis and birth canal in an optimal position.  The “Moving for an Easier Birth” course can help:

  • problems in pregnancy, like backache and pelvic girdle pain.
  • Troubleshoot problems during labour including a slow birthing stage.
  • Reduce the length of labour,
  • Reduce the need for pain relief 
  • Help increase positive birth experiences by supporting physiological birth.

Respecting the woman as an important and valuable human being and making certain that the woman's experience while giving birth is fulfilling and empowering is not just a nice extra, it is absolutely essential as it makes the woman strong and therefore makes society strong.'

Marsden Wagner