Back Labor Signs and Symptoms: Why Does it Occur?

While the uterus is only so big, there are still several positions a baby can wind up in before labor begins. Of course, there is one ideal position that helps in creating the easiest path down the birth canal. But what happens if your baby picks a less common position? How can it effect your pregnancy and labor? I have talked about breech babies, and I’ve written about transverse babies. For 30 weeks, this stubborn baby laid across my uterus, pressing outward on my pelvic bones and causing serious discomfort. But the baby finally turned head down, and I breathed a sigh of relief. A head down baby means a natural, vaginal birth is back in my future, but it may not be that pleasant! You see, this baby is still not in the most ideal position for a simple labor. LOA is a term used to describe a baby head down looking toward Mom’s left pelvic bone. In labor, this allows for the easiest transition for baby to turn, looking toward mom’s back as he descends the birth canal. A baby facing the right pelvic bone is not as common, but still allows for a pretty smooth transition. When a baby is settled in LOA or ROA, you will feel the back of the baby pass across your abdomen often. The feet will be more toward the side or up under your ribs. It isn’t exactly comfortable, but what part of pregnancy is? These positions lead to typical contractions that occur across the front of the uterus; again, not glamorous, but normal! And then there is back labor. This is when the contractions wrap around the lower back and cause extreme back pain. They intensive as labor progresses and send many women begging for medical intervention. Don’t get me wrong, an unmedicated birth is completely doable with back labor, it is just quite a bit more intense than most mothers expect. Why does back labor occur? Can you know ahead of time if it will happen to you? Good questions. Back labor occurs when a baby is in a ‘Sunny-Side Up’ position (Posterior position known as OP) this means that baby is looking directly up toward the sun instead of toward mom’s back as he is born. There is no 100% guaranteed way to know if this will happen during labor, as every baby and mother are different. So, no, you cannot know ahead of time if it will happen, but it is good to be prepared! There are, however, signs that baby is sitting comfortably (uncomfortably to you) in a sunny-side up position before labor begins. If you are feeling as though these signs are describing your current state, go ahead and head to and book a few appointments with a Webster Certified chiropractor. Pregnant woman holding her back while sitting on medicine ball Signs Baby is Sunny-Side Up:
  • Baby's movements are extremely intense
  • The baby’s back is rarely felt rotating across the mother’s abdomen
  • The baby’s legs and feet are often (intensely) felt from one side of the abdomen, to the center, and across the other side.
  • The mother’s tailbone feels bruised or broken and hurts while sitting and laying down.  Yes, sitting and laying intensify the pain.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions are intense and wrap low around the abdomen and pull through the back.
A baby whose skull is rubbing against the back of the mother’s pelvic bone is not exactly a cooperative baby! There are ways to encourage baby to turn, but if a baby decides to stay posterior, you can still have a natural vaginal delivery. Baby’s face may be a bit bruised as he passes through the birth canal in the less-than-ideal way, but he will be just fine! You just may want to wait a week or so before newborn pictures!
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