One fun part of my birth preparation has been doing Spinningbabies.com belly mapping to determine the baby's position. I'll admit, I'm having a harder time figuring it out this time than with previous pregnancies, but it's been enjoyable. A "me and baby" time. I can keep the maps that I create for the sake of seeing how baby moves from week to week.
As a person who is interested in birthwork, I'm always interested in learning more, and since I have a pregnant belly I can practice on, why not?
Why belly map?
Belly mapping serves as a reminder to me to do things to help keep the baby well positioned. My labor was long with my first, and I think she might have been a bit malpositioned. With my second, I worked pretty regularly at exercises and movements to encourage baby to the right position. This time, I need the reminder. If I am aware of baby's position, I can do things throughout pregnancy to encourage the baby to fit ideally into the pelvis.
How do I belly map?
Basically, I listen for the fetal heart beat (this is where my fetoscope comes in handy), and using a simple circle divided into quarters, I draw out where I feel movement, and where I feel solid smoothness, roundness or lumpiness. The Spinning Babies site offers a pretty comprehensive instruction on what to do and what it means.
Belly Mapping is pretty easy to do. Considering that we live in a society that encourages sitting (hello, computer!) and slouching (but couches are so comfy!), it's easy for mamas to hold their bodies in ways that encourage the baby to a less than ideal position, which can lead to a longer, more painful labor. Leaning back and slouching tend to encourage the baby to put it's back to our back (posterior position - not as ideal), while standing tall, with good posture, or leaning forward and allowing the belly to hang encourages baby to slide it's back to the front of our belly. With baby's back to our belly (anterior position) baby is in a better position for a more effective labor. Of course, there are no guarantees that a baby being in a particular position will result in a particular outcome, but my reading suggest there appears to be a relationship between baby's position and how labor progresses.
Besides, positioning exercises give me an excuse to play the part of a four legged animal in my kids' pretend zoo. Cat or Cow, anyone?