The Ins and Outs of Back Labor

Labor and delivery can be everything from exhilarating to exhausting, from blissful to challenging. While you can prepare for a full nine months, it is always wise to expect the unexpected when delivering a baby.

One of the unexpected aspects of labor involves “back labor,” intense pain in the lower back that typically happens when the baby is positioned “sunny-side up” with the head down by the cervix while facing forward towards the stomach (most turn to face backwards before delivery). This is also called occiput posterior position. While “normal” labor often feels more like menstrual cramps that come and go, back labor typically includes strong contractions concentrated in the back that don’t let up as much.

“It is important to distinguish between back pain, which is very common in pregnancy, and back labor, which is more intense,” said Dr. Deb Krahl. “While back labor isn’t fun and can take a little longer, it does not result in any additional complications and there are ways to alleviate pain and help to shift baby prior to birth.”

The following can provide comfort and movement for your baby:

  • Walking
  • Pelvic tucks
  • Squatting or sitting on a birth ball
  • Using a sheet or “rebozo” to shift the pelvis
  • Strong counterpressure
  • Hot and cold compresses or a warm shower

To help prevent back labor, regular pelvic tilts, sitting on an exercise ball during pregnancy, keeping your knees below your hips, and regular massage and chiropractic care can all help. Your doctor can also assess the position of your baby as your pregnancy progress.



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