Many pregnant women are anxious to know that their baby has “flipped” into a cephalic, or head down, position. Most women want to avoid a breech presentation. To many care providers, a breech position spells cesarean (although this does not have to be the case). Many babies begin to flip head down between 32 and 36 weeks.
Three Primary Positions: Breech, Transverse, and Cephalic
Breech – Feet down / Head up
Transverse – Lying Sideways
Cephalic – Feet up / Head down
More to the Story…
But what about women who are not far enough along in pregnancy for breech to be a concern – usually about 37 weeks? Or for women whose babies are already in a cephalic presentation. Is there anything a woman can do during pregnancy to encourage a head down position in the womb? The answer is a variety of exercises, positions, and body mechanics to help promote “Optimal Foetal Positioning.” These exercises help to position baby into the best and easiest position for giving birth.
To understand the importance of these Optimal Foetal Positioning, it is helpful to first understand the terms for baby’s position inside the womb. The Occiput is the back of your baby’s head. The back of Baby’s head can be to your tummy or back and facing left or right. The back of Baby’s head position is also referred to as occiput while the front of baby’s head position is referred to as transverse. Mom’s front is call her “anterior” and mom’s back is called her “posterior”
Occiput: Posterior Vs. Anterior
Posterior – Baby’s Spine to Mom’s Spine
(This back to back position causes more painful “back labor” and is also known as back to back or Sunny Side Up)
Anterior – Baby’s Spine to Mom’s Tummy
(When baby’s head is flexed – chin tucked down – in an Cephalic anterior position, it is considered a Vertex presentation)
Transverse: Left Vs. Right
Left – Baby is looking at your right hip
Right – Baby is facing your left hip
What is the best position for baby to be in during late pregnancy and labor?
Ideally, baby will be head down with the spine along the left side of mom’s belly with feet next to her right ribs.
This position is called Left Occiput Anterior(LOA) or Left Occiput Transverse.
Right Occiput Anterior is not as ideal but it is better than Occiput Posterior. Any position other than LOA can delay the start of labor, make braxton hicks contractions more painful, and make labor longer and more painful in general.
Optimal Foetal Positioning can help encourage baby to remain in an LOA position throughout labor to help mom have the easiest and least painful labor possible. It is especially important for first time moms, who tend to have the least amount of room for baby to move around.