We all know that sometime the path of our labour may not go exactly as we expected - the side-lying position can be very helpful as an alternative to being up-right. It's always good to know what your choices are, especially if you have your heart set on natural birth.
Description: Side-lying or Left-lateral position
Lying on your (left) side in foetal position (as much as you can with your big bump!) You can have your right leg raised, held by your birth partner or midwife, use pillows or a bean bag to make yourself comfy. Some hospital settings have beds with leg supports that can allow you to place your leg on the bars to feel strong and supported.
During your labour as your baby moves through your pelvis, the sacrum and coccyx need space to move and flex, allowing more space (up to 30% more). Lying on your back or semi-reclining where you weight is heavy on your sacrum cannot allow for this and will make the process much harder.
Experiment during your preparation for birth to see how variations of this can feel.
Your birth partner can feel very involved with this position as has an important job to do to support your leg!
It is thought that bringing the knees together when in this position can reduce tearing. (1)
Can be used in the first stage as a position to rest in and in second stage of labour when active.
Lying down on your side can act to slow things down if you feel your labour is progressing too quickly (Needing this is more common with subsequent pregnancies) The slowing can occur as gravity is not assisting in bringing baby down on to the cervix as much, there may be less pressure on the cervix and so things can slow.
Although gravity is not assisting your baby to move downwards, this isnt a negative position (like lying on your back) where baby needs to move almost uphill.
If you are having an epidural this becomes an excellent position to still allow your pelvis room to open.
Why am I told to lie on my left side when pregnant?
Lying on the left side is suggested to prevent your heavy uterus lying on your liver which is on the right, also to prevent compression of your
Inferior Vena Cava (main vein returning de-oxygenated blood to your heart from your lower body)
Supine shown in the diagram is lying on your back - not good but ok for very short periods like an examination for example. The left lateral (lying on your left) is shown on the right. Good blood circulation for you means great blood supply for baby.
If however you find yourself on your right side during pregnancy - don't worry. Right is not bad, its just left is great. During labour listen to your body. Lying on your right may feel more comfortable - your body & your baby will tell you, so don't be afraid to change around or try something different.
This position can be used if you are having an epidural.
Allows the needed movement through the sacrum and cocyx to allow baby to move down.
It can help you to rest and relax if labour is taking a long time
Lying on your left can help to keep baby’s heart rate up if it decreasing during contractions.
You are not wasting energy.
If mum has low blood pressure, this position can be a great alternative to being upright.
Could slow labour down due to lack of gravity if not used appropriately.
It can be difficult to get in-to and out-from this position. Make sure you talk through with your birth partner what feels good, and get them to help you to move if you need to.
(1) http://www.gentlebirth.org/archives/dlvrypos.html - Knees together birthing