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  • Writer's pictureMa Doula

Movement in labour

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

A plethora of studies have shown that movement during labour supports the natural and physiological birth process, and that women labouring in an upright or mobile position, compared to those lying down, had a shorter first stage of labour, received fewer interventions, reported less severe pain and higher childbirth satisfaction (Lawrence et al., 2013).


Childbirth pain is inherently a stressful process. If managed and controlled properly, a normal level of stress pain can be, in fact, adaptive and beneficial, both for mothers and babies. When our body experiences pain, our brain produces catecholamines, such as adrenaline (also called the "stress hormone"), to allow us to cope and adapt. Just like when your are working out, movement also produces the release of endorphins, which help manage labour pain (Simkin, 1986).


Movement is one of the many ways to channel this surge in energy, adapt and remain in control as the pain increases. But movement can be so much more than walking around!


Here are some movement techniques and strategies that I learned throughout my training and experience as a doula:

  • Stay upright and frequently change position, as it allows your pelvis bones to move and your baby to find its best fit into your birth canal, with the help of gravity.

  • You can also walk, or even heavily stomp. While you do that, focus on the rhythmic sounds and sensations of your bare feet or your shoes slapping on the floor. If you are tired or exhausted and do not have the energy to walk, you can also lay on a bed and move your legs in a walking-like motion, as if you were pedaling a bicycle. You can also rub your feet against each other.

  • Lie on your side, place your upper hand on the ground or bed in front of you at your chest level, and lean on it as your rock back and forth.

  • If you prefer to use your hands, you can rub them against some part of your body, such as your thighs or your buttocks.

  • Use a fit ball to rock your pelvis and bounce.

  • Stand and squat while your partner supports you from behind.

  • Dance and rock your pelvis.

  • Slow dance with your partner, with your arms around their neck.

  • You can also do some wall squatting. Stand with your back against a wall and slide up and down doing squats, or rock sideways.

  • You can listen to some rhythmic music and either tap the rhythm with your feet, legs, hands, or whatever body part feels comfortable. You can also rock and bounce following the music’s rhythm.

  • If you are on all fours, you can rock and move your pelvis, or kick your feet up and down.

  • If you are using a shower or a bath, you can rhythmically splash water and focus on the noise and sensations in your hands or feet.

  • You can clap your hands rhythmically and if it hurts, you can simply clap one hand against your other closed fist.

  • Shrug and roll your shoulders up and down rhythmically, as fast or as slow as you want.

  • Use some of the yoga positions you practiced during your pregnancy and add rhythm to them.

  • Move instinctively or as the wonderful Ina May’s Gaskin says, “Let your monkey do it”. If you need to walk, walk. If you feel the urge to rock your pelvis or squat, just do what your body instructs (Flashenberg, 2010).


While you move, don't forget to focus on the motions, the rhythm and the sensations, not your pain. This will distract your brain and make you feel in control.


Remember, women giving birth have the right to labour and give birth in whatever position is most comfortable for them. If your caregiver does not seem receptive to the idea of movement during labour or even to the concept of an upright birth, you are allowed to switch and find one who will support you.


References:

Flashenberg, D. (2010). Let your monkey do it--a doula's take on homebirth. Midwifery today with international midwife, (93), 11-11. Available at: https://www.proquest.com/docview/733893937?parentSessionId=SVYQMs9udaBmbDJYHVHOTzSuoZ7uEriH%2FylYxNtrezk%3D&pq-origsite=primo&accountid=16285


Lawrence, A., Lewis, L., Hofmeyr, G. J., & Styles, C. (2013). Maternal positions and mobility during first stage labour. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (8). Available at : https://www-cochranelibrary-com.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003934.pub3/full


Simkin, P. (1986). Stress, pain, and catecholamines in labor: Part 1. A review. Birth, 13(4), 227-233. Available at : https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1523-536X.1986.tb01053.x

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