You’re sitting at 38 week prenatal week when your doctor delivers the news: your baby is posterior.
At first, you might think, “what the heck is posterior?” You’ve probably heard that head-up isn’t the best scenario. But this curve ball was so far off your radar you’re not even sure how to react.
Posterior babies (AKA sunny side up baby) isn’t really a situation many pregnant women consider. Sometimes a posterior baby means absolutely nothing. Labor comes and goes, and that baby is delivered without any complications.
Other times, a posterior baby can wreck your labor and undo all of the hard preparation you’ve done.
I had no clue that my baby was posterior until I had already been in labor for almost 27 hours. My body was exhausted and I knew that if I didn’t get that baby to turn to anterior soon, there was a good chance that I would have a c-section. With the help of my L&D nurse, my baby posterior baby turned.
Hopefully, you don’t fall into the same scenario, but if you do, this post is here to help you prepare. Below, we’re going to talk about what a posterior baby is, the complications and risks associated and, most importantly, how to turn a posterior baby.
I truly believe that these tips can turn your baby into the optimal birthing position and give you an easier labor. So, let’s get started!
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What is 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. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.
Believe it or not, your baby’s fetal position can affect your labor quite a bit.
The ideal birthing position for a baby is head down and with the front of his body facing toward your right shoulder. This is called left occiput anterior.
If your baby’s spine is in line with yours, your baby is posterior.
You may have also heard a posterior pregnancy referred to as “sunny side up baby”, “op baby”, or simply “backwards.” Whatever you want to call it, its technically an abnormal fetal position that you should probably adjust if you can.
Posterior to Anterior: Why Your Baby’s Position Matters
Before we dive into how to turn a sunny side up baby, let’s talk about why your main goal should be to turn your baby from posterior to anterior.
A posterior baby isn’t usually a source of concern until labor hits. In an ideal situation, your baby will move into your pelvic cradle, tuck his chin into his chest, and slide right through your birth canal.
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 can cause you a lot of pain and hinder your baby’s progress.
Posterior Birth Complications
HAVING SAID THAT, if your baby is posterior, that does not necessarily mean that your baby will get stuck during childbirth.
However, there are several hiccups associated with the posterior position, that will probably inspire you to take turning an op baby pretty seriously.
It really depends on your baby’s head circumference, the narrowness of your hips, and the position of your baby.
Here are a posterior complications experts have found:
- Painful 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.
- Prodromal Labor- Your body isn’t happy that your baby is posterior. This creates labor that stops and goes. While prodromal labor may not lead anywhere quickly, it can be painful and exhausting for you
- Longer Labor- 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 while perineal tears are very, very common. 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.
What Causes a Posterior Baby?
Okay, now you get why anterior is the best position. But, maybe you’re wondering, why me? Why do I have a posterior baby? How can I prevent having a posterior baby in the future?
Honestly, this is kind of a tricky topic. Experts can make educated guesses as to why some women experience posterior births, but the exact causes aren’t know.
If you’ve read my Breech Baby Series, you might remember that formerly breech pregnancies are much more likely to result in posterior presentations. BUT doctors aren’t sure if that is because your baby was breech or if its due to the underlying problem that made your baby breech in the first place!
Still, let’s take a look at a few factors that might cause a baby to be sunny side up:
- Poor posture or desk jobs: This is a big one. If your feet are regularly elevated or you’re exercising poor posture, you’re not giving your baby the space he needs to wiggle into the optimal birthing position
- Epidural: This is another tricky thing. Is your baby posterior because you had an epidural or did you have an epidural because your baby is posterior? Experts don’t know. However, studies have found a correlation.
- Maternal low thyroid issues
- Poor hip alignment (either from that desk job, driving, injury, or genetic factors)
- Late stage Breech baby
- Anterior placenta
How to Tell if Your Baby is Posterior
Okay, full disclosure: the only real way to know if your baby is posterior is to check with your provider.
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 of your providers.
Most providers rely on an ultrasound for confirmation.
Having said that, here are a few posterior baby signs you should look out for:
- Little flutters facing your abdomen, just above your pubic bone– According to one of the leading experts on the subject, Spinning Babies, this could be 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
- Failure to engage
Related Post: How to Tell if Your Baby is Breech
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.
SHORT ON TIME? PIN IT FOR LATER!
How to Turn a Posterior Baby Before Labor Starts
If your baby is posterior, remember not to freak out. The majority of posterior babies will turn into the anterior position during labor.
Having said that, I’d leave nothing to chance! These exercises can encourage a baby to turn from posterior to anterior before labor even starts.
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
I’m pretty sure I learned this technique from Genevieve Howland (AKA Mama Natural and the creator of the popular childbirth course, Mama Natural’s Birth Class).
The idea behind the concept is that babies love warmth. So, you can add an ice pack to your back and a warm cloth to your bellow. Ideally, your baby will shift back against the warmth and away from the cold.
You can also 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
Your goal is to relax your body and give your baby the opportunity to move into the right position. Providing a zero-gravity environment is a great way to do that.
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 Sunny Side Up Baby During Labor
Let’s say you encourage your baby to get into the optimal position, but nothing takes. Labor begins and your baby is still posterior.
Don’t give up!
Sometimes, you just can’t turn posterior baby before you go into labor. Below are several exercises you can try during labor to encourage that baby into the right position. The goal of these exercises is to open your hips, relax your muscles, and reduce pain (which prevents babies from turning).
7 Stand or Use 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 Crawl or Labor on Your Hands and Knees
Laboring on your hands and knees opens your hips and let’s your belly hang, which can turn a posterior baby.
I can personally attest to the effectiveness of this position.
Not only did it ease the pressure from my sacrum (remember, pain causes your muscles to tense, which discourages your baby from turning), but it actively provided an environment for by baby to turn.
9 Apply Sacral Pressure
This technique will not turn your posterior baby, however, it may relieve some of your back labor.
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.
10 Rebozo or Belly Sifting
A rebozo is a common tool used in childbirth. It’s simply a large scarf that is wrapped around your belly. Typically, you will lean over while your birthing partner will stand behind you and gently sway the rebozo from behind. It’s kind of difficult to imagine this technique, so definitely check out the video above.
If you haven’t hired a midwife or doula, you should become familiar with this trick, just in case. Not only can it turn an op baby, but it’s a seriously effective technique for coping with labor pains.
Help! My Baby Won’t Turn From Posterior To Anterior
It’s not the end of the world, I promise!
Many, many moms are giving birth to posterior babies every day. Some moms won’t even experience additional pain.
Not to mention, while you might go into labor with a posterior baby, there’s a very good chance he’ll turn naturally during the later stages.
Having said that, if you plan on getting an epidural, many experts suggest waiting for as long as possible. This allows your baby to turn to anterior.
If you’re planning on going natural, pay special attention to relaxation and back pain coping techniques. When you’re in pain, you will tense up. Your body needs to relax for your baby to turn from posterior to anterior.
Take a Prenatal Class
Whether you plan on getting an epidural or giving birth naturally, please, PLEASE take a good prenatal class. These courses range from dirt cheap to a true investment, depending on what your expectations for birth are.
I’ve rounded up the best online prenatal classes on the internet to help you decide which one is best for you.
Having said that, if you’re planning on giving birth naturally and your baby is posterior, the class I would personally recommend for your situation is the KOPA Prepared Childbirth Class or the Mama Natural Birth Class. The KOPA PREPARED class teaches women how to give birth naturally, step-by-step, and the instructor actually addresses this exact scenario.
Meanwhile, the Mama Natural Birth Class offers a more personal, natural experience with plenty of holistic pain coping techniques thrown in. If you’re a relational, easy-going person, the Mama Natural Birth class probably fits your personality type better.
Turning a Posterior Baby Conclusion
I hope these tips were helpful to you, Mama.
A posterior baby can throw a wild card at you, but don’t let this complication bring your birthing experience down.
You can get through this and have the birth you want. Try these exercises before and during labor, really focus on pain-coping techniques, and come prepared for anything.
As a final tip, please don’t try to do this alone. Have a support team ready to go before you go into labor. I think that’s the final piece of the puzzle for an easier birth. Whether that’s your doula, L&D nurse, midwife, or partner, make sure that they are on board with these techniques before things get hot and heavy.
I hope you have a truly amazing birth. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Post your questions and experiences below!