Tips for Optimal Fetal Positioning

Tips for Optimal Fetal Positioning

The nursery is coming together, the checklist for your new baby is in progress, and you’re patiently waiting to meet your bundle of joy. But is your baby ready? As you may know, the ideal position for a baby to be born is head down and facing towards your back. Usually babies naturally get into this position by the end of pregnancy, however, there are a few tips and tricks you can do to help encourage the baby to get into this position.

Why fetal positioning is important:

The theory behind optimal fetal positioning involves the baby being in a position to fit through the birth canal as easily as possible. This position is termed occipital anterior, meaning backwards facing and head down. This theory was developed by Childbirth Educator Pauline Scott and Midwife Jean Sutton, whom together published a book called “Understanding and Teaching Optimal Fetal Positioning” in 1996. The techniques discuss how maternal positioning has a direct correlation to fetal positioning.

There is no exact time to start practicing fetal positioning, but generally, women tend to focus on the baby’s position near the last trimester of the pregnancy. It is definitely wise to be aware of fetal positioning before labor begins. Encouraging optimal fetal positioning can be achieved through maintaining good posture and practicing optimal fetal positions.

Postures to Maintain During Pregnancy

  1. Sleeping in proper alignment with your hips stacked on top of one another on your left side is the most ideal position. Symmetry of the body is an important factor in preparing for labor. Gravity is able to keep the weight of the uterus and baby off of crucial arteries/veins responsible for supplying oxygen throughout the body. With the use of some pillows you can easily achieve this position. Don’t worry if you wake up in a completely different position, your body knows what it’s doing; trust it.

    Did you know that waking in the middle of the night is your body’s way of ensuring you are in the most ideal position?

  2. Sitting upright, not in a reclined position on your tailbone, allows for your spine to be in its best working condition. Try to keep your feet and legs uncrossed to compliment this posture.
  3. Walking and Standing with your lower back swaying slightly forward allows gravity to work for you. Be careful not to arch your back as this can create misalignment in the spine.

Positions to encourage Optimal Fetal Positioning

cow pose-collage w cat pose RS

    • Hands and knees – Often referred to as “cat, cow” pose in yoga. Find a comfortable spot on the floor and position yourself on your hands and knees, shoulder width and hip width apart with a flat back. Slowly inhale and lift your head and chest to the sky allowing your belly to sink towards the floor, like a “cow.” Then exhale and round your spine toward the sky and release your head towards the floor, like a “cat.” Continue to do this fluid motion several times to loosen and relax the abdominal muscles.

cat pose-collage w cow pose RS

    • Standing and leaning on partner – Face your partner and wrap your arms around their neck, allowing some of your weight to be released. Let your belly hang in between the two of you. This can be a very intimate position because it really lets your partner experience the pregnancy as well.
    • Sitting backwards on a chair – Sit on chair facing the back of the chair with your legs on each side of the seat and lean into the backrest. Use this as a default position instead of sitting on the couch in a reclined position.

sitting in chair RS

    • Sitting on exercise ball with legs apart – This one requires an exercise/fitness/birth ball. Simply sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor and greater than hip width apart. Move your hips in a figure 8 motion or in a circular motion. Switch directions to keep the symmetry. If you prefer minimal movement instead, you may lean your belly and chest at a 45° angle over your legs while sitting on the ball.
      Hugging the ball while your knees are planted on the floor and swaying your hips to the left and to right can help with positioning during labor.
Product Recommendation

Any appropriate size fitness ball will do the trick. We love the anti-burst Gaiam Total Body Balance Ball.

  • Inversion – There are many types of inversions but a beneficial inversion for pregnancy is a modified down dog pose. Get onto your hands and knees with toes pointed (not flexed). Stretch out your arms and let your forearms rest on the ground. Relax your forehead on the ground in the space between your arms. Remain in this position for a few minutes if it is comfortable. You can take this position a bit deeper by having your knees on the edge of the couch and resting your forearms on a few pillows or cushions on the floor in front of the couch. Your head and chest will be lower than your knees in the deeper modification.

modified down dog-collage w sitting on ball RS

The best take home message from these exercises is to imagine your belly as a hammock for the baby. Let your belly relax into positions and gently cradle the baby so he or she can get into the most ideal position for birth. Each woman’s body is created different, if any position is not comfortable for you do not continue it. Remember to trust your body during this wonderful miracle. Mother knows best!

Looking for Un-Maternity Wear?

If you need to add some maternity clothing to your wardrobe, but don’t want to spend money on pieces you’ll only wear for a short period of time, then head on over to Melody Lane for the best in regular clothing that is versatile enough to wear before, during, and after pregnancy! They offer trendy, classic, and comfortable clothing that is hand-picked for all the life stages women usually experience. With nothing over $100, always free shipping, and new styles featured every season, Melody Lane makes sure your “fashion meets life”.

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Want to learn more about what you can do before your baby’s arrival, check out our EXPECT category. For more information about alignment during pregnancy visit this post: Adjusting for Labor

Photo credit: Woman holding belly adapted from Meagan Jean (CC)

Sources: and

This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician, doctor or health care professional. Please read our terms of use for more information.


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Janin is a mama to her daughter Emily, working as a Forensic Scientist in the heart of California. She can be found with her husband photographing their baby girl and boxer puppy, while trying to soak up every precious moment as a family of “four.” On her free time, she enjoys cooking up a storm, hiking any challenging trail, and exploring all the shores of Lake Tahoe.

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