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Why do you need to do this?

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Compared with women of even 30 years ago, we lead much more sedentary lives. More women than ever these days drive cars or sit at a desk for long periods each day. These sitting positions, especially sat in a car seat, tend to make your baby settle in what is known as the posterior position. This is when your baby’s back is around your back.

In later stages of pregnancy this may cause you back ache. If your baby is in the posterior position when you go into labour, then you may find that your first stage contractions are working to try to turn your baby rather than helping your cervix to dilate. You may get very tired and your back may ache. If the baby doesn’t turn then it is more difficult for your baby to come down the birth canal in second stage and you are more likely to need some form of instrumental delivery, even a Caesarean. If your baby does turn, you may then be able to progress to a straightforward second stage, but you may by then be exhausted and find second stage hard.

You will be pleased to learn that it is relatively easy to encourage your baby to be in the anterior position – that is with their spine somewhere around the front of your body. Doing the following exercise for at least 5-10 minutes every day of your pregnancy, will not only help your baby settle in the anterior position, but also help tone your abdominal muscles and alleviate many types of lower back-ache. While it is never too late to start doing this exercise – it can even be helpful in labour – it is never too early to begin. If you start doing this early on, it becomes part of your daily routine, it becomes very comfortable and you are encouraging your baby to settle in the anterior position.

© Jules Selmes

The Exercise

Get into the all fours position on the floor.  You could also, like in the picture above, use your partner’s body to lean over. You may find you need to put a thick blanket or a duvet down onto the floor to give some padding for your knees and hands. Make sure that your back is flat – women have a tendency to hollow the lower back, which tends to overstrain it. You may need to get your partner or a friend to check this, or check in a mirror. Make yourself as comfortable as you can – when you first begin to do this exercise you may find that you don’t feel all that comfortable. Don’t worry – your body will get used to it with practise. Close your eyes and begin to follow the movement of your breath as you breathe out and in. Slow your breathing down by breathing OUT a little more slowly with each out breath until you feel you are breathing deeply into your abdomen. As you breathe out become more aware of your baby (you may want to combine this exercise with the “baby breathing” exercise also in practical tips) – you may be aware of your baby moving. It is this all fours position which shifts the baby’s back so it is around the front of your body. After a while of resting, begin to explore what kind of movements you feel like doing – you may want to begin to crawl around the room. Crawling can help ease backaches. You may want to stay on the spot and rock forwards and backwards. You may want to circle your hips.

After a while, begin to move into what is called the CAT STRETCH. As you can imagine, this movement is rather like a cat arching its back. Begin by checking your back is flat and that your neck is in line with your spine. Focus your attention on breathing out deeply and as you do so, begin to drop your head so that your neck begins to extend. Push down into your hands and begin to lift and arch the whole spine from the neck down as you continue breathing out. At the end of the out breath you should be in the full stretch – like a cat arching its back, You may be aware of your abdominal muscles working. You may be aware of your baby being tilted away from your back. As you breathe in, flatten the spine from the base of the spine working up to the neck so that you end up in the flat back position. As you breathe out again, go into the arching movement, breathing in go into the flattening movement. And so on for as long as you want. Try to do this movement at least 5 times – but you can do it more if you feel comfortable.

After you have done this, ease forward onto your forearms, let your head rest on your arms and let your bottom be up in the air. This is known as the knee to chest position. Make sure that your lower back is not hollowing. Breathe out and rest being aware of your breathing and of your baby.

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