I’m Erin from Blunders in Babyland. Either you’re here because you’ve been following my Breech Baby Series or you’re at the final stage of your pregnancy and you want a nice, easy labor.
First of all, congratulations! You’ve endured 9 long months of pregnancy. This is the stage where you sit back and put the finishing touches on your adorable nursery. There’s still one last scenario you should plan for: how to turn a posterior baby.
Posterior babies (AKA sunny side up baby) isn’t really a situation many pregnant mamas consider. Sometimes a posterior baby means nothing. Other times, posterior baby can wreck your labor and undo all of the hard preparation you’ve done.
I say don’t leave anything to chance! This post will tell you exactly what a posterior presentation is, the complications and risks associated with it, and most importantly, how to turn a posterior baby.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. I only recommend what I trust. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.
What Does it Mean When My Baby is Posterior?
The ideal birthing position for a baby is head down and with the front of his body facing your spine. In other words, anterior. A posterior baby faces outward, so her spine is right next to yours.
A posterior baby isn’t usually a source of concern until labor hits.
With an anterior position, your baby’s chin will tuck in, his head will mold and your pelvis will mold your baby’s head so he can just slide right through. The issue is, the top of a posterior baby’s head will reach your pelvis first. At this angle, the full circumference of your baby’s head approaches your narrow pelvic opening. This video does a great job of showing the mechanics of a posterior baby during labor.
If your baby is posterior, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will get stuck during childbirth. There are several hiccups associated with a posterior baby, ranging from a slightly more difficult birth to a premature labor, to an emergency c-section. It really depends on your baby’s head circumference, the narrowness of your hips, and the position of your baby.
(FYI, in this post we are going to be talking about the mechanics of labor a lot. If you haven’t already taken a prenatal labor class, I highly recommend doing so. A labor class saved me during my own posterior labor. If you’d like to take a labor class from home, Pulling Curls offers a top-notch online course you should check out. You can access her beginning labor course for free as well!)
Why is My Baby Posterior? The Causes of a Posterior Baby
Honestly, there’s no clear reason for what causes a baby to be posterior. If you’re one of my Breech Baby Series readers, you might remember that breech pregnancies are much more likely to result in a posterior baby.
For everyone else, there are a few factors that are attributed to a posterior presentation:
- Epidural (tons of studies show a correlation here. It increases your risk from 4 to 13%)
- Maternal low thyroid issues
- Poor hip alignment (either from sitting, driving, injury, or genetic factors)
- Late stage Breech baby
- Anterior placenta
Signs Your Baby is Posterior
Some practitioners can tell if your baby is posterior just by palpitation. However, this is entirely dependent on your baby’s position, your physique, and the experience. Many other providers rely on an ultrasound for confirmation.
The issue is, since many posterior labors go without a hitch, the majority of providers don’t care to check.
There are a couple clues you can look for:
- Little flutters facing your abdomen, just above your pubic bone- According to Spinning Babies, this sensation is your baby’s fingers.
- No butt by your rib cage (not to be confused with the stiff, immovable mass of a baby’s head)
- Firm kicks to your ribs
- Pressure on your sacrum
- Consistent lower back pain
Related Post: 8 Sneaky Ways to Relieve Back Pain During Pregnancy
How to Tell if Your Baby is Posterior Through Belly Mapping
In case you’re new to the concept, belly mapping is estimating your baby’s position through a combination of fetal movement tracking, non-toxic body paint, and a heart monitor (optional).
(Breech Baby readers, if you tried belly mapping when your baby is breech, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to do when your baby is head down.)
I highly recommend that you investigate belly mapping and at least give it a try. If you discover that your baby is posterior, you can prepare and get a jumpstart on your labor.
However, don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work for you. If you have an anterior placenta, lots of “cushion” (I took eating for two way too far 😉 ), and a lot of amniotic fluid, you may not be able to assess your baby’s position accurately. I found the absolute best resources for belly mapping at Mom Loves Best (it even includes a video from Mama Natural on how to get started!)
Complications of a Posterior Baby
Painful Back Labor
I’m sure that you’ve done everything you can to prepare for labor. I was the same way. Let me tell you: if there is one thing that will destroy your dreams of an epidural-free birth, it’s back labor.
Back labor sucks.
It’s also one of the most common side-effects of a posterior baby.
Your Water May Break Prematurely
There’s nothing more exciting than your water breaking…unless it’s because your baby is posterior. The pressure from your baby’s position may burst one of your amniotic bags prematurely. This puts you in a tricky situation, because you will need to give birth soon, but your body may not actually be ready.
Your body isn’t happy that your baby is posterior. So, it may try to turn him through a few very real contractions. This creates labor that stops and goes. While prodromal labor may not lead anywhere quickly, it can be painful and exhausting for you.
Posterior babies cause a longer labor for a myriad of reasons, including the amniotic sack breaking prematurely (which may for your doctor to induce you. Induced labor=longer labor), his head may get stuck, or your cervix may take longer to dilate.
Perineal or Cervical Injury
Let me premise this section by saying that a tear to your cervix is extremely rare. A posterior baby applies a ton of pressure to your back, which can tell your body to push early, before your cervix is completely dilated.
Increased Likelihood of a C-Section
Cervical tears, head entrapment, and fetal distress can prompt a provider to recommend an emergency c-section. This is an extreme situation, even for posterior babies, but it would be the safest option for you and baby.
The duration of your labor may also attribute to an emergency c-section. If you’ve been laboring for 30+ hours and you’re not getting anywhere, there has to be an end.
10 Quick Tips to Turn a Posterior Baby
Exercises to Turn a Posterior Baby Before Labor
The majority of posterior babies will turn into the anterior position during labor.That doesn’t mean you can’t try a few exercises before your labor to stack the odds in your favor.
1 Hip Rotations
If you haven’t bought an exercise ball yet, you need to. Exercise balls are an incredibly cheap, efficient way to prepare you for labor. You can use an exercise ball to help with hip thrusts and rotations AND use it as a substitute for a chair. Really, you can buy any exercise ball, but I like this one on Amazon for the simple reason that it includes non-slip socks (absolutely essential for labor) and a pregnancy-specific workbook.
When you’re trying to turn a posterior baby, hands and knees positions are your best friend. I guess now is the perfect time to give in to your nesting urges and scrub those baseboards.
3 Pelvic Tilts
This exercise is very similar to the cat/cow yoga position. It’s a great way to encourage posterior and breech babies to turn into the right position. Spinning Babies recommends doing these exercises any time you feel the baby moving significantly.
4 Apply Warmth to Your Belly
This is actually a new trick that I wish I had tried during my own labor. Babies love to turn their backs to warmth. You can achieve this by floating in warm water, putting an ice pack on your spine, or putting a warm towel on your tummy.
5 Swim or Bath Submersions
Once again, your focus should be on letting your belly hang. Try breaststrokes or simply floating.
6 Chiropractic Adjustments
Desk jobs do tend to take a toll on our bodies. If your baby is posterior or breech there could be a chance that your hips could have a slight torsion that needs to be corrected. Having your hips aligned prepares the way for your baby to easily slip out the birth canal.
Exercises to Turn a Posterior Baby During Labor
Sometimes, you just can’t turn posterior baby before you go into labor. If this is the case, don’t lose hope. Below are several exercises you can try during labor to encourage that baby into the right position.
7 Labor with Vertical Positions
Avoid reclining at all costs during labor. Studies show that laboring in vertical positions can reduce the duration of your labor, minimize pain, and can lower the risk for perineal tears. Slow dancing and sitting on your exercise (or birthing) ball is also an excellent way to wiggle your baby out. You can also continue the hip rotations and thrusts you practiced before labor.
8 Labor on Hands and Knees.
As a mom that has labored with a posterior baby, I can attest to the effectiveness of this position. My posterior baby actually turned while I labored on all fours.
9 Apply Sacral Pressure
This will not turn your posterior baby, however, it may relieve some of your back labor so that you continue on until your baby does turn. This technique is extremely easy for your partner or L & D nurse to help you with. Basically, pressure is applied (either with a hand or a tennis ball) to your sacrum. This relieves the interior pressure from your baby’s head.
Easier said than done, right? Relaxation and meditation techniques can help with your pain and loosen your muscles just enough to allow your baby to turn into the correct position. Deep meditation also helps your cervix dilate to its full potential.
What if I Can’t Turn My Posterior Baby?
It’s not the end of the world! Many, many moms still give birth to posterior babies. Your midwife or L & D nurse may also have a couple tricks up her sleeve as well. For example, some L & D nurses use the Rebozo technique to gently sway your baby into the anterior position.
My nurse (is guardian angel a better term?) used this technique while I labored and it finally, finally, allowed me to give birth.
While a sunny side up baby can be a bit of a wild card during labor, there are quite a few ways you can adequately prepare! Try these exercises and techniques, at the very least, I think you’ll feel much more confident about going into labor.
You’re at the end of your journey through pregnancy and I’m so, so happy for you! Please let me know if you used any of these techniques or have more tricks in the comments below.