Welcome to Optimal Foetal Positioning.
OFP is about encouraging the un-born baby to settle into the most effective position for labour and birth. As the baby readies itself for labour it instinctively wants to align itself into its mother’s pelvis so that it can pass through without restriction to be born.
The most effective position for the baby to do this (and the most common) is the anterior position. In midwifery terms this is known as the Left Occipito Anterior position, often abbreviated to LOA.
To help encourage the baby into the anterior position prior to labour starting a pregnant woman can introduce simple exercises and movements into her everyday life.
This is what optimal foetal positioning is – encouraging the baby to move into the optimal position for labour and birth.
Jean Sutton and Pauline Scott wrote their little book Understanding & Teaching Optimal Foetal Positioning for anyone involved in pregnancy and childbirth. This includes not only midwives, childbirth educators, doulas and other birth practitioners, but also mothers, fathers and their support people.
Why does the position matter?
There are two main positions that the baby can settle into prior to labour starting. As we know the anterior position is one of them. The other is the posterior position. In midwifery terms this is known as the Occipito Posterior position, or OP for short.
If the baby is in the anterior position, the baby’s back (spine) will lie towards the woman’s front. This position offers the line of least resistance because there are fewer obstacles in the baby’s way as it moves through its mother’s pelvis to be born.
If the baby is in the posterior position, the baby’s back is lying against the woman’s spine. This means that the baby’s limbs are towards the woman’s front.
The posterior position is sometimes called head down but the other way around.
The ‘posterior’ baby, because of the angle it has started in, may find the manoeuvring it has to do to pass through its mother’s pelvis can be a bit more of a challenge, compared to the ‘anterior’ baby.
The journey may not be as straightforward because, to pass through the maternal pelvis, the baby has to either rotate its head to get into the more favourable anterior position, or squeeze through the pelvic cavity by reducing the circumference of its head.
It is well documented in midwifery text books that a baby in the posterior position can make for a longer labour. This is not necessarily a negative thing and many women manage a posterior labour perfectly well. But what we do know is that prolonged labour can often mean there is a hold-up for one reason or another as the baby negotiates its mother’s pelvis.
Optimal Foetal Positioning goes much further in explaining what these hold-ups might be, what the consequences are, and what tools can be applied to help encourage the un-born baby to settle into the most effective position prior to labour beginning, as well as during labour.
The rate of medicalised childbirth continues to rise. If this simple, non-invasive method of appropriate maternal postures and movements can encourage the unborn baby to move into a position where its head can move through the woman’s pelvis without restriction, then it is possible that a more natural, less medicalised birth can be achieved. This is not only advantageous to the mother, but also to the well-being of the new born baby.
© Copyright Jean Sutton