What to Do About Back Labor: Tips from a Professional Doula

Back Labor Doula Tips

Many women have heard horror stories about babies who become occiput posterior (OP), or face forward instead of face backward, during labor. Most common is the concern about the pain of back labor, which is often associated with a baby in the posterior position. 

The truth is, babies turn into all sorts of position prior to labor. Many babies do spend some time in the posterior position, either prenatally or during labor, which can be normal. The research shows that doing special exercises prenatally does not reduce the chances that a baby will be in the posterior position at some point during pregnancy and labor, and that most babies do, in fact, turn to the anterior position prior to delivery.

It is also important to know that back labor is not usually due to the position of your baby, and it may simply be a part of any labor. This is due to the fact that the uterine muscles and pelvic muscles wrap around and extend to the back, connecting to the lower spine. This can cause many women to feel intense sensations not just in their belly or pelvis, but in the low back as well during contractions.

As your doula and childbirth educator, I aim to equip you with comfort measures to use in case you do experience back labor. These tools aren’t meant to stress you out about doing something right or wrong to achieve a certain fetal positioning for labor. They are tools in the toolbox as you listen to their baby, your body, and your needs during labor:

Comfort Measures for Back Labor

  • Hands and knees position.
  • Rebozo sifting.
  • Warm or cold compress on the lower back.
  • Shower or submersion in a tub.
  • Deep massage in the lower back.
  • Hands-on counter-pressure.
  • The Knee Press.

We can show you how to do any of these techniques, and cover many of them in our Comfort Measures for Labor Workshop. If you have more questions about them, let us know! We would be happy to answer them, or to demonstrate at our one-on-one prenatal visit together.

Medical Options for Back Labor

Sometimes the intensity of back labor can become overwhelming. If this happens, it is OK to ask for some additional help in coping so that you are not suffering through your labor! Two medical options for dealing with intense back labor include: sterile water injections in the lower back, and of course, getting the epidural.

Sterile water injections are not always an option with every care provider and at every hospital, but you can ask your doctor or midwife prenatally if it might be an option for you when you are in labor. We are familiar with some of the local Cincinnati and Dayton providers who offer this option to their patients if you are curious.