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Side-lying Release

(By Gail Tully,

This is not just lying on one's side and leaning your leg over! Do weekly in pregnancy and once in early labor to potentially reduce labor length. Add to the activities to help a breech flip in pregnancy. Stall in labor? Annoying hip pain? Contractions with no progress?  Asynclitic or posterior baby? This technique is a star in the universe of maternal positioning for labor comfort and progress.

What is the Pelvic Floor?

Within the bony pelvis is a supportive "floor" of muscles, much like the respiratory diaphragm, that lifts the womb and other abdominal organs. There are two openings (holes) in the pelvic floor, one for the anus and one for the urethra and vagina. The baby comes through this opening during childbirth.

The pelvic floor opening is a front-to-back opening through which the baby turns like a button going through a button hole. The sides of the opening are strong and springy and direct the head to turn. 



What's the problem?

If one side of the opening is tighter than the other, or higher than the other, the baby can be tipped and/or rotated into an unfavorable position. The asymmetrical tension can pull the pelvis out of balance.

Even if the pelvic floor is evenly tight fetal rotation or descent (coming down) can take a lot longer than usual.

Common habits of modern life can make the pelvic floor tight or twisted, simple things like driving a car or crossing our legs. Sports accidents or falls on either the head or the bum are suspect, too. 

Tension or torsion in the pelvic floor lengthens labor. Uneven tightness in the pelvic floor may make the baby's head tip causing an asynclitism (tipped head) that makes labor longer and increases the chance of cesarean or vacuum. The strong pelvic floor of a dancer or horseback rider (or runner, or other athlete) may lengthen labor considerably; this technique may help.

If you do the pelvic floor release, do it on both sides. This is immensely important!

In labor

The benefits of a side-lying release help to overcome a stall or plateau of dilation in the presence of strong contractions. In other words, the uterus is trying, its contracting. But the labor can't bring the baby down through the pelvic floor or can't bring baby down evenly.

  • Labor just can't seem to get started. Contractions start and stop.

  • Labor stalls at 5, 6, 7 cm or later. 

  • Baby's head is tipped or asynclitic.

  • Baby's head is stuck sideways, halfway down the pelvis at 0 station (Transverse Arrest) In this case, follow up with the lunge or the Open Knee-Chest position through several contractions.

How it’s done: 

Here’s the point of the Side-lying Release:  Her top leg hangs forward and into the air. Let the full weight of the top leg hang. Keep the lower leg straight. The helper has to avoid the mother’s thigh so the thigh can hang freely. 

  She breathes deeply and slowly. Her belly is relaxed. Her leg relaxes more.

How long? In pregnancy:  Her leg hangs like this for 1-2 minutes. It’s ok to try it longer, but it’s vital that it’s done on both sides. A few people have reported holding each side for up to 20 minutes to flip a breech!

In labor: Let the leg hang like this through 3 contractions and switch sides for another 3 contractions. Stay like this between contractions, too!

Repeat on the other side immediately. Repeat for just as long, 1-2 minutes in pregnancy and through 3 contractions during labor.  It’s vitally important to do both sides so that you don't create more of an imbalance!

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