Sometimes lying down is harder work

From Chicago, at the 87th annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America

Most U.S. women deliver their babies while lying down, but a new study suggests that squatting or standing might ease the process by allowing the birth canal more room to expand.

“Women use different labor positions depending on cultural background or even as a fashion,” says Thomas Keller of University Hospital in Zurich. “But what changes these positions might cause in the pelvis were not exactly known.”

So, he and his colleagues took magnetic resonance imaging scans of the pelvic region of 35 women in three different positions: lying on their backs with their knees up, standing slightly bent forward with their hands on their knees, or squatting. The women were in their late 20s and early 30s, and none was pregnant. In both vertical positions, diagonal measurements from one bony part of the pelvis to another were between 3 and 6 millimeters larger than they were when the women were lying down.

Because women with smaller pelvic measurements who have had trouble giving birth are likely to have difficulty again, physicians make such measurements using MRI scans after difficult pregnancies, says Karen Kinkel of Cantonal Hospital in Geneva.

While the differences between positions detected by Keller’s group are small, the implication is that squatting could make labor and delivery easier, she says.

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