Why Do Women Give Birth on Their Backs?

May 24, 2023
Tripti Mohan – May 24, 2023
Why Do Women Give Birth on Their Backs

Some of you might be surprised by this question. Are you wondering if there is…

Some of you might be surprised by this question. Are you wondering if there is any other way to give birth? Then, this might be a depressing piece of information for you. It may even make you mad. The reason why women give birth on their backs is that it is easier for caretakers to see the progression of labour.

Now you must be thinking, “So is it not because it is the easiest position for mothers?”. Absolutely not! Then why does this happen? There is a historical reason. Read on to know more.

The History and Evolution of Birthing Positions: Why Do Women Give Birth on Their Backs?

For millions of years, women have been giving birth in the upright position in the presence of other women in the family or midwives. It is claimed that in the 18th century, French King Louis XIV wanted to see his mistress give birth. But Kings are not supposed to bow their heads. So the lady was asked to lie down on her back. Hence, it became more accessible for the King to see his child’s birth. Even though it is much more difficult to give birth in the supine position, the royal “trend” was then followed by everyone in the country. It soon spread to all Western countries.

This might be the most ridiculous thing you read today, but unfortunately, it is true.

Cultural and Societal Influences on Birthing Positions: How Have They Shaped Our Understanding of Childbirth?

Like many traditions of yesteryears that were followed blindly by the next generations, this one too caught on. It became harder for mothers to give birth and so, doctors were required to supervise and support them. For doctors too, the supine position made it easier to examine the progress of the labour.

Cultural and Societal Influences on Birthing Positions How Have They Shaped Our Understanding of Childbirth

In more recent years, lying on their back was the only position most women considered because that was what was shown in pop culture and media. It was assumed that this is the norm. All the facilities in hospitals are also appropriate only for the supine position. Mothers often trust their nurses and doctors and so according to their instructions, they lie down on their backs. Few organizations that continued to support natural birthing techniques, helped women to give birth in upright positions, sitting, or squatting. But this method remained in a few circles.

The Medical Justification for Supine Position: Is There Really a Need for it?

When caregivers have to intervene in childbirth, they will have to do a vaginal examination. In such conditions, it is necessary for the mom to be lying on her back. It is also noticed in some studies that blood loss is comparatively lesser in this position.

The Medical Justification for Supine Position Is there Really a Need for it

However, the benefits of using other positions are way more.

  • The labour pain is less in an upright position
  • The mother is also seen to have lesser back pain
  • The pressure on the cervix is lesser if the mom is not lying down.
  • Gravity makes it easier for the fetus to come out.
  • Positions like squatting or semi-squatting can be more comfortable for women.
  • The pelvis is more open. It is easier for the mother to push the baby out.
  • There will be more contractions resulting in shorter labour.

When there are more benefits to using positions other than supine for childbirth, is there a need for women to give birth on their backs? We believe women should be given the option to choose their position.

Alternative Birthing Positions: Why Women Should Have the Freedom to Choose What Works Best for Them?

At the end of months of pregnancy, a woman must endure humungous pain to give birth to her baby. It is only fair that she is given the option to choose a position that works in her best interest. Many times the mothers can alter their position according to their instincts to make it easier for them and the baby.

Alternative Birthing Positions Why Women Should Have the Freedom to Choose What Works Best For Them

In the first stage of labour, you may kneel, squat, semi-squat with the help of a yoga ball, lean over from a bed, lunge with the help of your birthing partner, sit on a stool leaning forward, or sway as per the mom’s comfort.

In the second stage, standing, going on four limbs, or lying sideways can be helpful. Standing with one leg on a chair can also make things easier.

Ultimately, it is the comfort of the mother that counts, and she should get the freedom to choose her position.

The Future of Childbirth: How Can We Move Towards More Empowering and Natural Birthing Experiences?

It is necessary to take steps for more empowering and natural birthing experiences. The most important thing to do is to teach the midwives and doctors about it.

The Future of Childbirth How Can We Move Towards More Empowering and Natural Birthing Experiences
  • Most doctors are aware of the advantages of using different positions, but they still don’t encourage it because of the systems in place in the hospital. They need to understand that it is not riskier than the supine position and has many benefits instead.
  • Many first-time mothers have never even heard of different positions while birthing. It should be made part of the prenatal classes so that these women have the freedom of choice
  • Culturally, for generations, women have been giving birth on their backs. The awareness must start at home so that a mother can tell her pregnant daughter that she can have babies in other positions too.
  • Women should understand the possible alternatives by reading from books, online content, or communities of women who have used natural birthing techniques.

Overcoming cultural norms has never been easy. By having healthy discussions with the doctor or midwife before the delivery day, you can be prepared and make informed decisions. If the pregnancy has been complicated from the beginning, or if there might be a possibility of surgical intervention, you would have to take instructions from the midwife. In such cases, it might be better to go with the supine position as suggested by the caregiver. In any case, keeping your comfort must be the priority.

  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22648-midwife
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3647734/

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