Getting your baby into the best birth position

The final few weeks of pregnancy can be difficult: You’re probably feeling impatient to meet your baby, nervous about labour and also tired of coping with carrying a heavy load - and all the niggles that come with it.

Try out our exercises that may improve your baby's position.

'My first baby was induced and born back-to-back by forcep delivery. I wish I’d understood more about positioning because I might have been able to encourage him into a better position during the induction, and in the weeks before.

'I knew about OFP second time round and started my labour with the baby LOA. It was an easier, shorter labour - a wonderful, positive experience for all of us.'Clio, mum of two

Step one: Get to know the position of your baby

Ask your midwife to help you work out the position of your baby.

When you feel your baby wriggling, try to visualise which body part is moving. You could even note down where you’re feeling the kicks. Little tickles are probably tiny hands, while more definite movements could be a knee, elbow, or foot.

Your baby’s head will feel hard and round, while bottoms usually feel a bit softer.

Anterior baby: You will probably feel kicks under your ribs. Your baby’s back will feel hard and rounded on one side of your tummy. Your belly button might poke out. This is the ideal position for baby to be in.

Posterior baby: You’ll probably feel more kicks on the front of your tummy, your belly-button might dip and the tummy area feel more squashy. When the baby is in a posterior position, labour can be longer, more painful and is more likely to end with caesarean or instrumental deliveries.

Step two: Understand the end goal

The best position for your baby is head down, facing your back - so that his back is on one side of the front of your tummy (left is best). This is known as Left Occiput Anterior (LOA).

In this position, your baby will fit through your pelvis more easily. The back of his head will be pressing more evenly on your cervix, helping it to open and your labour to progress.

Your baby’s back is the heaviest part of its body so it will naturally move towards the lowest side of your abdomen. That’s why upright, forward-leaning positions may be helpful during the last few weeks of your pregnancy (from 34 weeks if it’s your first, or 37 weeks for subsequent pregnancies).

Step three: Try out these exercises

1.    The tried and tested floor scrub

Women have been using this trick for centuries. Not only will it satisfy your nesting urge to spring clean the house before your baby’s arrival, but being down on all fours is a great position for the baby. Crawling around in this position for about half an hour could give your baby the chance to shift into a good, anterior position.

2.    The anti-couch potato

Get up off the sofa and watch TV kneeling on the floor, resting forwards over a bean bag, cushions or birth ball. Even better, in the ad breaks, try gently swaying your hips.

3.    The backward chair manoeuvre

Grab a dining room chair and sit on it backwards (so you’re facing the backrest). You can then lean forward to relax, or rest your magazine or book on the chair back.

4.    The birth ball bounce

Sit on your ball and gently rock your pelvis forward and back. To mix it up, you can also try figure of eights, circles and side to side. Beyonce music optional.

5.    The cat stretch

While on all fours, slowly arch your back up like a cat, hold for ten seconds, and then gently release back down. Repeat ten times. This is known as a ‘cat stretch’ in yoga.

6.    Swimming

Swimming with your belly down is a lovely position for you and baby. Breaststroke is great - but kick your legs, instead of doing frog-legs (also known as the scissor kick), because this can exacerbate pelvic pain (PGP, also known as SPD).

What to avoid

Long journeys in deep car seats - grab yourself a cushion to create a wedge.

Relaxing back on a soft, comfy sofa - okay, you’re meant to be taking it easy but try relaxing on your side instead.

Sitting with your knees higher than your pelvis - your pelvis should be higher and, ideally, your trunk tilted slightly forwards.

Don’t cross your legs - this reduces the space at the front of the pelvis, which ideally you want to keep nice and open.

Deep squatting - it may cause your baby to ‘engage’ before it’s turned into a good position.

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Last reviewed on April 1st, 2016. Next review date April 1st, 2019.

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