New Birthing Sling May Shorten Labour And Reduce Interventions

New Birthing Sling May Shorten Labour And Reduce Interventions

Few things sound as wonderful to a pregnant mama than, “can shorten labour.”

Perhaps the only other thing coming close would be knowing there are ways to reduce the risk of unnecessary c-section, or decrease the need for epidural pain relief.

New Birthing Sling May Shorten Labor And Reduce Interventions

A new birthing sling has made its way to The Birthplace at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in hopes of making all the above possible.

This sling is a strong but soft fabric tied into the shape of an “O”. It’s capable of supporting up to 500 pounds (226kgs).

Known as a “birthing sling”, it’s really a new take on classic birthing aids. For much of human history, women gave birth upright using a variety of aids such as fabrics and rope.

How Can A Birthing Sling Shorten Labour?

We know that remaining upright and active during labour is beneficial to both mother and baby. When a mother is upright she has gravity on her side. She’s also able to listen to her body and find the most comfortable position.

While you don’t need the sling to remain upright, the presence of a birthing aid can encourage you to try an upright position. It can also add some support to make staying upright more comfortable.

Women who are upright tend to have a shorter labour with less interventions than those who remain supine. Because gravity aids in the effectiveness of contractions, dilation and baby’s descent through the birthing canal can be shortened with the use of the sling.

Learn more in BellyBelly’s article Giving Birth Upright – 9 Huge Benefits

How Can A Birthing Sling Reduce The Risk Of C-Section Birth?

The same benefits which could shorten labour, also reduce the risk of a c-section birth.

Remaining in the supine position (lying down) can make it difficult for baby to get into an optimal position and descend. Not having gravity on your side can also mean baby isn’t putting quite as much pressure on the cervix, and prolong the first stage of labour (the dilation phase). In some situations, a prolonged labour can lead to a c-section birth.

When women are upright and active, it increases the effectiveness of contractions and helps baby navigate the birth canal. During the second phase of labour (the pushing phase), being upright can make each push more effective.

When a mother’s position facilitates baby being able to better navigate the birth canal, it has the potential to reduce c-sections.

How Can A Birthing Sling Decrease The Need For An Epidural?

Many pregnant mothers will say they worry about their ability to cope with labour pains. Some of that seems to be the result of how birth is shown in the media.

Of course, birth can come with pain and intense sensations. However, there are many tools at our disposal to help cope with those. One medical tool is the epidural, but it isn’t without risk which is why many pregnant mothers and medical providers hope to reduce the need for using one.

When women are upright and active, each contraction is more effective thanks to gravity. This has the potential to shorten the length of labour, which could reduce the need for medicinal pain relief.

By having a birthing sling available, women are encouraged to labour in positions outside of the bed. This can also facilitate optimal fetal positioning which can reduce pain due to poor positioning.

By avoiding an epidural, women can utilise other methods of pain relief and coping techniques such as hydrotherapy, walking and position changes, and other non-medicinal methods.

Having an epidural increases the risk of falling into the cascade of interventions. This is another reason a birthing sling can reduce the risk of a c-section birth.

You can learn more by reading The Cascade of Interventions – What You Need To Know

Should I Use A Birthing Sling?

Birthing slings aren’t right for every labour, but can be a good option for many. For women without medical complications which would require them to be in bed (e.g. hypertension requiring magnesium sulfate), it’s one of several birthing aids with the potential to reduce interventions.

Adding the sling to The Birthplace at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital’s available birthing aids was part of their recent renovations. One of the goals of their renovations is increasing low intervention vaginal births.

While they’re the only hospital in their state to utilise the birthing sling, prior to adding it to their facilities, similar benefits were achieved by using exercise balls, bed sheets and even the labour bed.

If your facility doesn’t have a birthing sling, you can use other methods to achieve similar results by remaining upright and active throughout your labour.

Read more in BellyBelly’s article Active Birth – 8 Big Benefits For Mother And Baby

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Maria Pyanov CPD, CCE CONTRIBUTOR

Maria Silver Pyanov is a mama of four energetic boys and one unique little girl. She is also a doula and childbirth educator. She's an advocate for birth options, and adequate prenatal care and support. She believes in the importance of rebuilding the village so no parent feels unsupported.


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