This sequence is designed to help baby move into the most favorable position for birth (i.e. head down, with baby facing your back), which may help facilitate a shorter and easier delivery. By being in the most physiological position, baby has the lowest chance of obstacles affecting their passage through the birth canal. This sequence aims to release tension in the body, giving baby more space, and uses gravity to guide baby into the optimal position.
Scroll down below the image to learn more about why optimal fetal positioning is important and find detailed instructions for the yoga practice depicted below.
First of all, what is Optimal Fetal Positioning (OFP) and why is it important?
Optimal Fetal Positioning (OFP) refers to the ideal position for baby to be in during late pregnancy (last trimester), labor and birth. These ideal positions help facilitate a shorter and easier delivery by placing the narrowest part of baby (crown of its head) against the cervix, which helps aid in dilation, and through the widest parts of the mother's pelvis. The ideal positions are occiput anterior (OA) and left occiput anterior (LOA), where baby is head down and facing towards your back (OA) or head down and facing towards the back right side of your body (LOA).
Babies in other positions late in pregnancy may pose some challenges for labor. Breech positions, when baby's bottom or feet are down near the cervix, and transverse positions, when baby is horizontal in the uterus, may make it very difficult if not possible to give birth vaginally. Another type of malposition that is more common due to our modern lifestyles is the occiput posterior position, where baby is head down, but facing towards your belly button. Lots of tucking the tail and rounding in the low back tilts the uterus backwards, encouraging baby into the posterior position. This position can cause more discomfort in labor as baby's head is pressing on the mother's sacrum (often referred to as "back labor"). It can also cause slower dilation because baby's head isn't putting pressure on the cervix to encourage it to efface. The pushing stage of labor can be more difficult with posterior babies since the brow or top of the baby's head enters the birth canal first, instead of the more narrow crown of the head. Perineal tearing, use of forceps and/or vacuum extractors, and even cesareans are more common with posterior babies.
In addition to practicing this yoga sequence for optimal fetal positioning, there are several things you can do throughout your day to keep your baby in this ideal position. First of all, try not to spend much time in reclining positions where your tail is tucked and your pelvis is tilted back. Instead, try to slightly tip your pelvis forward when you sit or at least keep it level. Take breaks from sitting and do pelvic rocks or go for a walk. Spend at least 10 minutes a day leaning on a counter and swaying and circling your hips. Massage, chiropractic, and even dancing can all be beneficial for OFP.
With all that being said, your body and your baby are amazing at adapting. Babies can be born in lots of positions, even those that are not optimal. It just might take a little more time and effort.
If you're curious to learn more about OFP, there is a list of resources at the bottom of this post.
Begin in Sukhasana (easy sitting pose): Prop your seat up on a bolster, folded blanket, or other cushion, and cross your legs. Take a few slow, deep breaths, drawing your awareness inward. Place one hand on your heart, one hand on your belly, and take a moment of gratitude for the wonderful practice you and your baby are about to begin.
I hope you enjoyed this prenatal yoga practice for optimal fetal positioning. Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or feedback. If you are curious to learn more about this topic, here are a few resources:
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