No one wants a long, unproductive labor with excruciating pain in the back. How many thousands of times have I heard the sad stories of women who labored for hours and hours only to find out they were two centimeters, maybe three or four? Or they got to eight and then – nothing…. Or the ones who pushed and pushed and ended up with a section anyway?
And so, since their babies were obviously stubborn and uncooperative, or the women themselves weren’t relaxing well enough to dilate, or they had an inadequate pelvis – you know, the “blame the victim” mentality — they were put on that “wonder drug” Pitocin (pit of sin, the pits) which, they tell you is safe and “just like the oxytocin that is produced naturally in your body.”
Are they kidding? If it is so safe, then why do they have to continually monitor women as soon as they start the drip? If it is so safe, then why do babies go into fetal distress so often after it is administered? And, why do women who have had one birth “augmented” with Pitocin and then go on to have a natural birth report that there is absolutely no comparison whatsoever between a birth augmented with the stuff and a normal, my-body-is-doing-it-naturally labor?!?!?
To help influence a baby to line up so that the smallest part of its head – the part that molds most easily and fits best through the cervix – is correctly positioned, there are things a woman can do through the course of her pregnancy. I tell all my pregnant clients never to cross their legs and never to put their knees higher than their pelvis. This means that when they come home at the end of the day and want to relax, watch TV, or read, they can put their feet up, but not on a chair or ottoman that positions their calves higher than their knees. They are not to sit tailor-style in yoga classes. We don’t want to tilt the pelvis back and make it more difficult, over time, for the baby to assume an anterior position, which generally makes the labor much easier and faster.
The women are also instructed not to recline. You know, at the end of the day, when we stack some pillows behind us on the couch or on the bed and lean back… so that we can finally relax, read, talk on the phone. Reclining is a no-no. My moms sit up straight or lie down completely. They want to do everything they can to make certain that they give their babies the best possible chance to come out vaginally. They don’t drink milk, either – or soy – more on that another time.
It always seems to be such a surprise to doctors in the hospital when they pull out their ultrasound machines to see why this cervix is not dilating or why the baby is not descending…to note that, oh my, the baby is posterior (head is down, but baby is facing the mother’s pubes instead of her spine). This is one of many things that a superior (and dear) mentor midwife, Valerie El Halta, taught me: that you can know the position of the baby very early on in labor – by the character of the labor and by identifying the fontanelles on the top of the baby’s head —
— and —
– if it IS posterior – you DO NOT WAIT until the woman has been in labor for hours and hours before you do something… because the longer the woman labors with the baby in the unfavorable position, the more likely the baby will become committed to the unfavorable position — and then — Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to the OR you go.
You can access Valerie’s article online, “Posterior Labors: A Pain in the Back”, as well as the article I wrote about paying attention to the position of the baby BEFORE it’s born.