When women sit, kneel, or walk during early labour, says a recent research review, they shorten the length of their labour time and are less likely to need an epidural. It's standard practice in developing countries for women to be up and on their feet during early labor, but in industrialised countries -- where most babies are born in hospitals -- it's much more common to find a labouring mum flat on her back, in bed.
What's interesting to me is that this isn't a new concept; pregnant mums have been told this for years. Seven years ago, in fact, was the first time I heard it, in my first birthing class (and it was old news then). And I tried ... oh how I tried ... to follow it. I was up on my feet, in the shower, on the birthing ball. But the minute a health provider walked in the room, I was back on my bed, strapped to that fetal monitor. "Try to keep this on," they'd say.The research review suggests that it's more convenient for health practitioners to keep an eye on both the mum and the baby if she's lying in bed and on the monitor. But laying flat can decrease blood flow to the area and slow contractions, while being up and moving may help the cervix dilate and distract a labouring mum from her pain. (Go ahead and have a good laugh about that last one. I know I did.)
My nurses eventually let me stay on my feet, though they shooed me back to bed now and then for a quick peek. But I'll admit it added another level of stress being told not to do what came naturally to me. Monitoring is important, I know. For us, it let us know our baby was safe, and warned us at one point when she wasn't, so that we could change our course of action. But there has to be balance between keeping an eye on things and letting a labouring mum do what she has to do. Hopefully, this research review will help parents and practitioners find that balance.
Share your labour story with us: Were you on your feet? Or did you labour in bed? And either way, would you have done it differently if you could do it over again?