Safe Squatting in Late Pregnancy and Labour
We’ve all heard how beneficial squatting can be during pregnancy and labour. But what do we need to know to maintain safety for our students? Bliss Baby Yoga Senior Course Facilitator Star Despres and BBY Director Nadine O’Mara share their thoughts.
Most yoga teachers know the many benefits of squatting, especially during pregnancy. Squats are amazing for opening the pelvis, creating space as the baby grows and help in preparation for birth. They also help maintain strength and resilience and can even be used as mental preparation to cope with the intensity of contractions.
It’s generally acknowledged that deep squatting is not advisable in late pregnancy, unless our pregnant student has an established practice and is sure their baby has engaged (dropped down) in the pelvis in the optimal position (Occiput Anterior). There’s the risk that in a deep squat, an Occiput Posterior or Breech baby can engage before they have had a chance to rotate to Occiput Anterior. There’s lots of great information explaining baby positioning on the Spinning Babies website.
Once the head is in the pelvis and the baby has engaged, rotation is a lot more difficult. So, in the last six weeks of pregnancy, or when in doubt about the position of the baby, our pregnant students can opt to do modified squats safely.
We cover many variations of safe, modified squats in the online Bliss Baby Yoga Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training course. Adaptations like sitting on a block, half squats such as Goddess pose, or even Chair pose against a wall can be safer in the final weeks.
As taught in the Bliss Baby Yoga Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training course, squatting is also contraindicated for the following issues:
- If baby is in breech position after 34 weeks
- Incompetent cervix / cervical stitch
- Premature dilation of cervix
- Pre-term labour
- Separated symphisis pubis
- Knee problems
- Haemorrhoids or vulval varicosities
- Severe, painful varicose veins
- Placenta Previa
- Discomfort at any time –more likely towards term
As for squatting during labour, I think the most important advice is for the woman / birthing person to listen to their body’s inner knowing and allow that intuition to guide them into whatever position feels right in any given moment.
Squatting is beneficial to optimise the diameter of the pelvic inlet earlier in labour, however more recently it has been recognised that bringing the knees toward one another and turning the heels out will help open the pelvic outlet, beneficial in second stage of labour. This is contrary to previous information where it was thought that squatting was most beneficial for second stage.
This doesn’t mean that a squat may not feel good to many people at the point of birthing their babies since it is still a wonderful position to optimise gravity and feel a sense of moving energy downward (known as Apana Vayu).
Squatting during contractions in the first stage of labour is likely to make it more intense, as the baby’s head is encouraged to go down into the open pelvis. This exerts pressure on the cervix and stimulates contractions, so can potentially also shorten the duration of this stage.
Ensuring squats are supported is best during labour (this could be sitting on the bed/against a wall, sitting on yoga blocks/ squatting stool) so as not to exhaust the mum/parent-to-be. However hanging squats in all their various forms (using a rebozo, sitting on their partner’s lap or supported from behind) are also powerful positions in which to labour.
If you would like to expand your knowledge in teaching yoga for pregnancy safely and confidently, you may be interested in our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training course, and Online Extension Modules covering topics including Prenatal & Postnatal Anatomy and Physiology and Pelvic Floor Anatomy and Physiology for Women’s Health. We offer a holistic approach to teaching Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga, with a focus on safety guidelines and contraindications for safe and appropriate practices to nourish prenatal students and new mothers.
Star Despres is a Senior Course Facilitator for our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training course and Online L1 & L2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training courses. Star also offers Online 1:1 Mentoring for yoga teachers and personalised yoga classes. You can also connect with Star via Way of the Wise Woman on Facebook and Instagram. Article updated by Nadine O’Mara 9th June 2023.
Illustrations by Sophie Duncan www.deerdaisy.com
Further Reading related to this topic:
- Apana and Active Birth: Three ways yoga can support women through the third trimester by Beth Ivy Buxton
- Let’s Twist Again! Twisting safely during Pregnancy by Ana Davis
- To supine or not to supine, that is the question! by Ana Davis
- Safe Yoga for Placenta Previa by Nadine O’Mara
- Releasing the Psoas during Pregnancy by Ana Davis
- Healing the wound: How can we best support mothers after caesarian? by Nadine O’Mara