Posted: Feb 14, 2014 7:00 AM
Your baby's position can make all the difference during labor and birth. Gail Tully, founder of Spinning Babies, shares how belly mapping can help you — and Baby — have an easier birth.

The ideal position for a baby to be in for labor and delivery is anterior — meaning the baby's head is facing down. When a baby is posterior — head facing up — labor can be more challenging and may sometimes mean an assisted vaginal delivery or even a cesarean. While your doctor or midwife can get an idea of your baby's position by palpating a mom's belly during prenatal visits, mom can do this at home.

Belly mapping is one way to get to know your baby's position.

"Belly Mapping is a three-step process to help pregnant women discover their baby's position in the womb," says Midwife Gail Tully, CPM, founder of Spinning Babies. "Belly Mapping can be a fun bonding game and is also useful for proactive childbirth preparation through fetal positioning."

How do you map your belly?

There's a wealth of information about belly mapping on Spinning Babies, but the gist of it is for a mom-to-be to use the pads of her fingers to feel the contours of the baby, and note which baby parts are in which belly parts, Tully says.

pregnant woman holding belly

"Thinking of the abdomen as a circle with four quadrants — pie pieces — gives us a right and left side and a top and bottom," she explains. "The large smooth side of the baby is the back, the bulge on the top of the back (or to the side if baby lies sideways) is often the bottom. The cylinder coming off the bulge is the thigh coming off the hips. Feet often push out opposite the back and the bulge in the upper part of the abdomen. For instance, the back may be on the left of the mother's navel and the feet kick to the right of mother's navel. The bulge rises up on the top left and the feet kick in the top right. Little hands in the lower abdomen on both the right and left sides of the center dividing line means baby is facing forward in the posterior position. No little wiggling hands in front may mean that Baby faces mother's spine in the anterior fetal position."

Some moms place a baby doll on their bellies to compare with their baby's parts, and others even use body paint to draw the map on their bellies.

What happens if Baby doesn't move into the ideal position for labor and delivery?

Positions for labor like squatting, lunging and hands and knees can make more room in the pelvis for a baby to rotate to anterior, but sometimes all the positions in the world don't help, and babies don't rotate — and that's OK. I have worked with moms who tried everything to turn their babies to no avail. Some had vaginal births, others did not.

Tully says, "It isn't a mother's fault if Baby is breech, transverse or posterior. These positions can be caused by the environment we live in, low thyroid function, poor posture and the common body mechanics of our era. Coming into balance and getting help to resolve twisted postural muscles and ligaments help almost all babies to slip into a better position either before labor or with strong labor contractions. Don't give up — get information on how to help yourself now and in labor."

Share with us!^ Are you going to give belly mapping a try?

Read more about preparing for labor and delivery

The new full term pregnancy: What it means for you
Positions and comfort measures to ease back labor
Tips on packing your labor bag