Don’t take this lying down!

Check out this wonderful and informative blog, packed with reasons why you should not labor and give birth lying down. This is real evidence, not just “doing what we’ve always done.” It just amazes me that this unnatural and quite possibly dangerous labor position is not only common in hospital births, but typically insisted upon!

For history buffs, or those wondering why women give birth lying down, here is the answer: It is commonly attributed to Louis XIV’s desire to watch the birth of his (presumed) child; so he instructed his mistress’s doctor to have her lie down, while he hid behind a screen. The doctor realized that it was a lot easier for him to see what was going on, as well as less humbling to be able to sit or stand and be at the woman’s level or over her, rather than kneel or squat under the woman.
He began requesting that all of the women he attended give birth in bed, and also popularized it among his peers. Soon it became the norm for doctors to insist on supine positions–for their convenience. Then when birth became medicalized and standardized, and the doctors of the 1600s passed on their norms to those of the 1700s and then the 1800s and then the 1900s, it became “normal” to give birth lying down. In fact, once anesthesia became available and widely used, it was necessary for the woman to lie down. The typical hospital birth for most of the 1900s was to anesthetize the woman, cut a large episiotomy, and drag the baby out with forceps. So lying down in labor and birth is “the norm” but it is far from “normal”.

One Response

  1. YES! Right on! When I read “Active Birth” by Janet Balaskas, I was so shocked at how OBVIOUS it seemed. Pushing with your pelvic floor muscles while lying down just makes no sense – it’s as silly as having a bowel movement while lying down. (Not to be crude, but honestly, I think it’s similar.)

    I was adamant that I give birth in a squat position, whether on a birthing stool or using a squat bar on a bed or in a supported squat, but it didn’t work out. I was exhausted from being awake for 30 hours, and I ended up reclining. The important thing? IT WAS UP TO ME. My midwife and birth team tried to help me into a squat, and moving in that way felt so wrong, so I said to forget it and let me recline. They still helped me get into as active a position as was comfortable to me. It angers me that my experience of a “normal” birth is not at all “the norm.” This level of respect and dignity should be given to all women!

    And, for what it’s worth, I believe that I wouldn’t have had such bad tearing if I had been in a better position. But that’s okay; I listened to my body and did whatever it could do.

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