Phoenix Private & Prenatal Yoga Teacher, Doula, Childbirth Educator

Nurturing Joyous Life

Emily Carden: Private & Prenatal Yoga Teacher, Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula and Childbirth Educator in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe, AZ

The Importance of Fetal Positioning

Recently, I had a student in one of my prenatal classes mention that another prenatal yoga teacher had told her that "the couch was the enemy". In hearing this, I thought, "YES, that's exactly right!", but I had never stated it to my own students so blatantly and clearly. It's the truth, though, and we shouldn't avoid making that clear to our pregnant students, friends and clients.

There's a lot of reasons why the couch is your enemy. Sitting too long in any modern day furniture like the couch or chair causes a host of discomforts and misalignments in your back, pelvis and hips, especially in pregnancy. Sitting and reclining in most couches puts the body in a "rounded" like position in which the shoulders are hunched forward, the front ribs are pushed down to the abdomen and the pelvis is completely tilted backward, forcing the tailbone into a semi-permanent "tucked" position. This is awful for having a baby. In labor, we need the pelvis to be loose and the tailbone to be mobile. Not to mention the fact that we also need the body to be in good shape, not stiff and tight everywhere, so that the mama can physically get through the challenge of labor and delivery.

But, most importantly, spending most of your time in a rounded position like that can cause your baby to end up in an OP position. That's means a posterior position in which your baby is lying on their back facing outward toward the belly with their spine resting on mama's spine. During pregnancy this is not a major issue, but in labor this is a HUGE deal. It almost always means intense, longer than normal, painful back labor for the mom. Rather than getting breaks in between her contractions, she'll instead feel unending, intense back pain that she will not get relief from unless her baby turns over into an OA, Anterior Position, in which her baby is facing inward toward her body and the spine runs alongside the abdomen. And, this kind of labor is extremely hard to get through without the use of more medical-type pain relief. So, it's true, the couch is your enemy! But, if you can't sit on the couch and you shouldn't sit in chairs and sitting on the floor or being in a squat all the time is completely ridiculous, then what should you?!


First, read up about it. Don't do anything in your pregnancy or labor that you haven't learned about and are making an informed decision on. You, the parent, has to decide what's best for you and your baby and how to prepare for this life-changing experience. My favorite resource is Spinning Babies ( Gail Tully is really a revolutionary in my eyes. She is helping us understand that the first thing we should consider in challenging, stalled or unusually painful labors in the baby's position. Rather than jump to interventions or think the worse, instead, think about baby; where is baby? how can we help baby find the right position? and how can we help the woman's body facilitate the labor process?

Then, actually do those fetal positioning exercises you just learned about! I like the forward leaning inversion to be done first (if appropriate for mama), followed by the rebozo sifting and then the sacral release. Also, make sure to read about the birth ball and definitely invest in getting yourself one. Don't just let it roll around the house. Use it, use it and then use it some more! Sit on it, roll your hips on it, rest your chest on it in hands and knees positions. It will help keep your groins, hips, pelvis, inner thighs, back and tailbone happy.  Stay away from the couch and chairs; whenever possible opt for your birth ball instead. And be active during your day! Get out and about at your local yoga classes or prenatal exercises classes, go for walks with friends and keep moving. You will thank yourself in recovery. :)