After almost 9 months of increasing discomfort, as you near that due that, youâre getting into the home stretch. Youâve probably felt your baby move and kick quite a bit as youâve gotten up to this point. Both of mine were apparently doing gymnastics.
In any event, as your baby nears the time for birth, heâs got much less room to work with for his daily acrobatics. The position he ends up in is extremely important for your labor and delivery, which is exactly why your doctor makes you turn up for appointments weekly during this time.
While checking everything else, he or she will assess what position your baby is in. Theyâve done this for you before, but in the last month, itâs one of the most important things to know. If your baby isnât in the right position, you can do a few things (which Iâll discuss below) to coax him around. But if that doesnât work, you may need to plan on a different type of delivery.
For my first, everything was going fine right up until my water broke. Gushed is more like it. Once I got to the hospital, I was constantly monitored. She was fine and had her head down at that point, but I wasnât dilated enough to go into the delivery room.
About 18 hours later, I was finally ready to deliver this kid. We got to the delivery room, I got an epidural and about 10 minutes later, I still felt excruciating pain. Turns out, she turned around inside of me. She was now head-butting my lower back. We tried to get her to turn but between the pain and my exhaustion, I just couldnât handle it anymore. We had to go with an emergency c-section after that, tossing my pristine birth plans right out the window.
Iâm not telling you this to freak you out but rather, so you know that you have to go with the flow sometimes and just do whatâs best in your situation. Sometimes, everything will go according to plan, and other times, like in my situation, it wonât.
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Possible Positions of Your Baby
During that last month, your doctor will use some lingo to describe the position of your baby. Letâs talk about that:
If your baby is in this position, thatâs great news. Itâs the safest and most ideal position for delivery. This is when your baby is head down and their face is toward your back. With chin tucked down into their chest, they are ready for the journey through the birth canal.
If you hear your doctor say âocciput-anterior,â this is also good. Itâs when your baby can flex their head and neck and get into position. For the anterior position, your babyâs head can press on your cervix, helping it to open during delivery.
Generally, most babies get into this position between weeks 33 and 36.
In this position, your babyâs head is facing down, however, their face is turned toward your stomach. Called the occiput-posterior, you shouldnât worry if your baby is in this position. Most of the time, your baby will turn on their own to face the right direction before you give birth.
Sometimes though, your baby wonât rotate and youâre left to have a longer delivery with extreme back pain. I will say this to you: there is no shame in having an epidural. NONE. And if you choose to forgo one, there is nothing wrong with that either. Do what is best for you and the baby.
This one is definitely no good, but donât panic if you hear your doctor tell you this is the position your baby is in. There are 3 types of breech positions:
- Complete breech: Babyâs butt is pointing down to your birth canal while the legs are folded at the knees and feet are close to the butt.
- Frank breech: Babyâs butt is also pointing down toward the birth canal but the legs are straight in front of their body with feet by the head.
- Footling breech: Either one or both feet are pointing downward in the direction of the birth canal.
You definitely donât want your baby in this position because it makes it harder to deliver vaginally. You can still try but thereâs more risk to the baby, and to you too. It also increases the risk that the umbilical cord can loop around your babyâs neck.
If your baby is in any type of breech position, your doctor will lay out all the options for trying to get them into a head-down position. Thereâs a technique known as an ECV or external cephalic version. This is when pressure is applied to your abdomen. Itâs very uncomfortable, but it is very safe. Often, it is quite effective in getting the desired result.
But sometimes, itâs not, especially if your baby is trying to come into the world feet-first. In those cases, a c-section is pretty much a sure thing.
There is one more position that most people donât know about because itâs so rare for a baby to be in at the time of delivery. If your baby is in the transverse lie when you go into labor, you will have no choice but to have a c-section. The risk for the umbilical cord coming out before your baby when your water breaks is far too great and must be taken care of urgently.
You donât need to wait until your next ultrasound to find out about what position your baby is in though. You can just try out a little technique known as belly mapping.
The Art of Belly Mapping
This technique is something you can do around your 8th month. You just a need a washable marker (non-toxic) or even body paint (again, non-toxic), a fetoscope, and a doll as a prop. Try it out right after your visit with your doctor so you know where the head is.
Then, follow these steps to belly mapping which you can do any time to get peace of mind.
- Lie down on your back
Your bed is a good place. Lie down and put very gentle pressure around your pelvis to feel for the head. Youâll know youâve found it when you feel something like a bowling ball (but smaller of course). Make a mark on your belly where you felt it.
- Use the fetoscope
Youâll listen for your babyâs heart with the fetoscope and mark that on your belly too. Donât have a fetoscope? Then pay close attention at your ultrasound and take notes where your doctor found the heartbeat. You can mark it later when youâre home.
- Use the doll
This is where youâll entertain the positions based on the position of your babyâs heart and head.
- Find the butt
Itâs hard and round, but not like the head. If youâve found the head, go the opposite way for your babyâs butt and you should find it. Again, mark it.
- Use kicking as cues
Another way to find your babyâs position is to pay attention to how theyâre moving, particularly where those kicks land. This will help you figure out where the knees or legs are so you can mark it.
Once you know all these things, you can draw the baby on your belly, something fun thatâs great for your baby shower or even with your spouse. Some women get super creative with it.
Other Ways to Tell if Babyâs Head is Down
You can also do some other detective work to figure out if your babyâs head is down:
- Listen for hiccups. If you feel them lower in your belly, babyâs head is down.
- If the kicks feel high up, itâs likely the head is down.
- If you feel fluttery feelings lower down, itâs your babyâs hands which is another sign of the head being down.
Generally, if you start feeling extreme pain near or under your ribs, your babyâs head might be there. You can use the baby mapping techniques to feel for the head. While the butt is also round, itâs soft so youâll be able to tell a distinctive difference between each end.
What to Do to Get Babyâs Head Down
If youâre in your last month of pregnancy and your babyâs head isnât down and in occiput-anterior, you can try to coax her into the right position. Your doctor may suggest you try the following things:
- Sit and tilt your pelvis forward.
- Sit on an exercise ball (like the one you bought to get in shape with that sits in the corner of your garage).
- Keep your hips higher than your knees every time you sit.
- If you sit a lot, like at the office, for example, get up and move around often.
- While in the car, try adding a cushion to help you tilt your pelvis forward.
- Several times a day, get on your hands and knees like a dog. Barking optional.
Whatever you do, donât squat. If your baby is in the wrong position, this will just lodge them deeper into it, dropping them down (also known as lightening) which will make it more difficult to get them turned to the right position.
Itâs certainly worth trying those techniques out though be forewarned that they might not work. The shape of your pelvis is another factor that could make it difficult for your baby to turn into the best position for delivery and you may be discussing the possibility of a c-section with your doctor for that.
You can also head in for a prenatal massage or chiropractic treatment. Just ask your doctor what they think is best.
One Last Bit of Advice
Itâs totally normal for your baby to turn and move a lot during your pregnancy. Youâll feel this movement in the middle of your second trimester on to the end. As they run out of room in your womb, the feeling is more squirmy than anything.
Once they settle into a position, by week 36, thatâs when you should be concerned about which way theyâre facing. Up until that point, try to relax and not stress. Stress will make things worse for you and the baby.
My mom always says, âIt is what it is,â so do everything you can to sit right, relax, eat well, and enjoy yourself. Your OB/GYN will help you sort out any problems that may arise.
If youâre worried about your babyâs position as you get into the final weeks, make a back-up birth plan with your doctor that includes the possibility for a c-section. Itâs nothing to be afraid of (Iâve had two of them!) but knowing what to expect will make it less chaotic and stressful for you should there be no other alternative.
I only wish Iâd thought beyond what I wanted when I was going in for delivery. I imagined my birth experience to be with an epidural and to push her out vaginally. It couldnât have been further from my expectations, but my doctor and her team took excellent care of us. The end result was beyond my expectations though, having a sweet precious daughter that would turn me into a mom. Focus on that and youâll get through whatever type of delivery is coming your way.