Childbirth while lying down: 5 disadvantages
Nowadays, two out of three women give birth while lying down. Interestingly, this was not always the case. On the contrary, historically, childbirth in a supine position is the absolute exception. Why this ? What changed ? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of each position for childbirth?
Why Western women started giving birth while lying down at some point is not fully understood, but it coincides with the development of conventional medicine. Until the 19th century, midwives were replaced by male doctors. It is the latter who preferred the lying position in order to have better visibility and the discomfort that this gives to women seems of less importance. Also, traditional childbirth positions – sitting, squatting or standing – have been forgotten.
From an anatomical point of view, the lying position for childbirth is the most unfavorable.
5 reasons not to give birth while lying down
1. Gravity : during childbirth while standing, sitting or squatting, as was common in the past, and outside the western world until the 1980s, the force of gravity takes over much of the stress. This effect can even be exploited during childbirth on all fours, when in the lying position mother and child have to fight against gravity. In this position, the birth canal faces upward at an angle.
2. The Pelvis : during pregnancy, the bone structure of the pelvis relaxes. They become mobile like joints. On the other hand, in the supine position, the pelvis is again immobilized. This narrows the birth canal by an average of 2 cm. In addition, the limited mobility of the pelvic bones makes it more difficult for the baby to rotate in the birth canal.
3. The vena cava: when lying down, an average total weight of 5 kg (baby, placenta and amniotic fluid) rests on the mother’s inferior vena cava, and therefore on one of the most important blood circulation lines. The oxygen supply of mother and child is thus considerably deteriorated.
4. The contractions: when the mother is in an upright position, the baby’s head presses against the cervix, which stimulates both the activity and the effectiveness of the contractions. However, when the mother gives birth in a lying position, this stimulus is absent, which slows the delivery (3 hours on average).
5. Perineal laceration and emergency cesarean section: Severe perineal lacerations and emergency cesarean sections are more common in supine deliveries than in other positions. This does not mean, however, that a delivery in a lying position should always lead to this result, but the statistics have spoken …
Image: 19th century birth chair
Many women have given birth lying down and are very happy about it. The truth is, in the past, women were much more likely to give birth on their knees, squatting, or standing.
Each birth position has its advantages and disadvantages. Women should be free to choose what suits them, because they are the main actors in childbirth, not the doctors. The freedom to choose also means freeing oneself from fixed ideas about how a birth should unfold. So it helps to know that, historically, a supine birth is far from the norm.
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