For many expecting Mom’s, the idea of having a baby is both empowering and frightening! One of the most common fears during pregnancy revolves around the actual arrival of your new bundle of joy. Luckily, us women have amazing bodies that are equipped and programmed with all the tools needed to have a natural, non-invasive birth (or at least to keep that option open for you).
Difficult or painful labour (also known as dystocia) is most commonly caused by the cervix not dilating enough or because the baby does not descend into the birth canal properly. Dystocia and failure to progress are the most common causes for Cesarean Sections. Alarmingly, C section rates are rising steadily in hospitals across Canada and the US. Roughly one third of babies born at most hospitals are born via Cesarean.
Understanding how your body works and the amazing things that it is capable of can be part of your set-up for success. That understanding can alleviate fear of the unknown. When you possess some knowledge of the factors at play, you can make informed decisions on how to impact them. In this blog, my goal is to explain some of the biomechanics of giving birth so you can improve your chances of having the birth YOU want!
During delivery, there are three main components that may influence the baby’s ability to pass through the birth canal with relative ease. We will refer to these as the 3 P’s:
1 – POWER
“Power” refers to the forces that move baby through the birth canal. This is mostly accomplished by the uterus. Did you know that the uterus is one of the strongest muscles in the human body? Strong, coordinated uterine contractions are needed for the cervix to thin and dilate (open) and to allow the baby to descend through the birth canal. Special nerves that travel through the lower spine and pelvis supply the uterus and control how quickly and how strong the uterus is able to contract. During dystocia, these contractions may not be strong enough or they may not be coordinated properly. To allow for optimal “power” to push the baby, these nerves need to be functioning at an optimal level and the muscles need to be strong and efficient.
2 – PASSAGE
The “Passage” is the space that is available for the baby to pass through. This passage is formed by Mom’s pelvic bones – her physical anatomy. Although the overall shape of Mom’s pelvis is determined by her body type, hormones released during pregnancy (such as relaxin) allow for increased mobility of the pelvis during pregnancy and birth. If the joints in the pelvis are unable to move properly to create space or the bones in the Mom’s pelvis are out of balance, the birth is more likely to be difficult for both Mom and baby. We want a good balance of position and mobility for the bones and joints of the pelvis to create a nice, open birth passage way.
3 – PASSENGER
The “Passenger” is, of course, the baby! Now we need to consider the size of the baby and how he or she is positioned in relation to the mother. The ideal position for the baby is head down, chin tucked, with their body/back aligned on the left side of the mother. Often, when the baby is in this position, Mom will feel the baby kicking on the upper right side of her abdomen. This position typically allows for the best set-up for an easier labour and delivery.
This “3 P” approach to considering and preparing for your best birth experience is taught by the International Chiropractic Paediatric Association (ICPA) during Webster Chiropractic Technique training. This technique is designed specifically to cater to the physical and neurological needs of Mom’s changing body throughout pregnancy in preparation for the big day. Taking care of yourself throughout pregnancy, including regular chiropractic care and massage therapy, can address these 3 P’s. Chiropractic adjustments and soft tissue release support optimal alignment and mobility of Mom’s pelvis, which helps to create more space for the baby to move as needed (and influences both the “Passage” and “Passenger.”) This treatment is also important for supporting the function of the nerves that supply the pelvis and uterus, which is important for the “Power” aspect birth.
More Tips for a Better Birth
- Sit cross-legged for a prolonged period of time. This will contribute to muscle imbalance and twisting of the pelvis, causing one side to become tighter than the other.
- Perform repetitive activities that involve bending and twisting, such as vacuuming, scrubbing the floors or moving. (Get some help or don’t try to do everything in the same day.)
- Hold your toddler on your hip. Have you ever noticed that you will always do this on the same side? This also creates imbalance across the pelvic bones (and throughout the rest of your body).
- Ignore pain and discomfort in your low back, hips or pelvis. It IS possible for most moms to have a pain-free pregnancy! Talk to your health care provider or contact us to chat about safe conservative care options in your area.
- Keep that pelvis moving!
- Stay active! Regular stretching, walking, prenatal yoga, and gentle prenatal exercises classes will help keep your hips and SI joints moving the way they are supposed to!
- Dancing/stretching with your hips in a figure 8 motion
- Cat/Camel stretching
- Foam Roll & other Self Myofascial Release (SMR) techqniques
- Tuck a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side at night to help reduce twisting to your pelvis.
- Rest when you need to.
- Focus on proper nutrition and adequate water intake. Not only will this help flush your system of any toxins and chemicals that may be contributing to inflammation and pain, but avoiding EXCESS weight gain and gestational diabetes will help prevent an “oversized passenger”.
For more information, check out Head Down is Not Enough from Spinning Babies.