What is back labour?

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Back labour describes the pain and discomfort that a labouring woman experiences in her lower back while in labour. Back labour occurs in about 25% of women, and may be a sign that your baby is in what’s known as the occiput posterior position – or “sunny-side up” (meaning your baby is head-down, but facing your tummy instead of your back).

While this position can be uncomfortable for you, it’s not a problem for your baby. In fact, nearly 90% of babies rotate on their own during labour or can be shifted by your midwife. If the baby does not rotate, a vaginal delivery can be somewhat harder, but is still very safe.

Back labour is often accompanied by an irregular contraction pattern and a labour that is slow to progress. A baby in an odd position does not always result in back labour. Also, a back labour is not always the result of a baby’s lying position.

The best way to relieve back labour is to get off of your back.

If the back pressure is thought to be caused by baby’s position, there are techniques that can change the position of the baby. Even if the cause of back labour is unknown, using the proven techniques for repositioning the baby is a good place to start.

Techniques to help improve baby's position:

  • Walking.
  • Squatting and lunging.
  • Sitting on a birth ball.
  • Pelvic tilts and belly dancing.
  • Hands and knees and/or open knee chest positions.
  • Sitting backwards on a chair or the toilet.

Techniques to ease discomfort:

  • Hot or cold compresses applied to the lower back.
  • Strong counter-pressure on the painful areas.
  • Hydrotherapy using a shower, warm bath, or birth pool.
  • Heated rice sock.
  • Applying pressure with something that rolls down the back such a water bottle, tennis ball or hollow rolling pin.
  • Using a combination of techniques, positions and comfort measures increases the chances that if you experience back labour you will get good relief from your pain.

Did you experience back labour when you were pregnant? How did you ease your discomfort? Tell us by emailing chatback@parent24.com and we may publish your comments.

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