The human female pelvis is a bony maze that a baby has to wriggle through to get head and shoulders into the light and air of this world. Stay tuned on how this relates to Russians and runny eggs. When I was in high school I was fortunate enough to earn a trip to Yosemite. I got to camp in a tent cabin, participate in corny trust exercises, go on lots of hikes and go on one very cool cave exploration.
Before our group went into the cave, our guide explained that one section of the cave is called the birth canal. No flashlights were allowed. Our guide entered first and told the next person where to put each foot and hand, that person then told the next person and so on. That one sentence about my trip to Yosemite describes doula work.
Physically the person in front of me would grab my foot and place it where it needed to go and in turn I would do it for the person behind me. Some people would get a little scared and nervous about entering a dark hole in the ground. You could hear emotional support offered the whole way through, it even became a team effort to help the ones that were the most frightened. And obviously information was being transmitted throughout, “watch your head here”, “there is a hand hold here”, “this spot is a bit damp”, etc.
Our guide finally got us to a small sloping cavern and we were able to turn on our flashlights. I am sure we talked about the journey into the cavern and cave stuff. Then we had to leave the cave through the birth canal. The walls of this portion of the cave are rock. I recall we entered the space and had to spin in a spiral to negotiate head, shoulders and hips through the irregularly shaped passage.
During birth a baby typically completes seven cardinal movements: Engagement, Descent, Flexion, Internal Rotation, Extension, External Rotation, and Expulsion. OR, are you ready for the Russians and the eggs? Every, Decent, Fellow, In Russia, Eats, Extra Runny, Eggs. This is called a mnemonic, isn’t that fun? I know I am a birth dork. Okay what does all that mean and how does a cave in Yosemite relate to a pelvis?
Engagement (or Every in our mnemonic)- The baby has to enter the pelvic inlet, called engagement. The pelvic inlet is basically the top of our hips, the space is widest from side to side. So ideally baby enters with the back of the head towards one hip and the front of the head toward the other hip. If baby resists engagement during labor, check out the Walcher maneuver on the Spinning Babies website.
Descent/Decent-The baby drops down through the pelvis as the uterus contracts and pushes baby down towards the pelvic outlet.
Flexion/Fellow-This is the tucking of the chin to the chest. The force of the uterus pushing the head against the hard pelvis makes this the safest position for the baby spine.
Internal Rotation/In Russia-The pelvic outlet is widest from the front to the back. So the baby has to rotate a quarter turn to fit his/her head through the pelvic outlet. At the same time the wide shoulders are entering the pelvic inlet with the widest part from your hip to hip just like the baby’s head did.
Extension/Eats-Now the baby extends his/her head to press on your pelvic floor and stretch the perineum to allow the head to be born.
External Rotation/Extra Runny-The baby’s head comes out with the face looking backwards (or down if in you are on your back). Then the baby rotates a ¼ turn once again to face one of your thighs. This is to allow the shoulders to enter the pelvic outlet just as the baby’s head had to.
Expulsion/Eggs-The baby slides out!
In the cave I do believe my arms were out in front of me, but I do remember having to turn from my stomach to my side and back to my stomach and back to my side in order to get out of that cool little cave.
So, I guess the moral of the story is that keeping your pelvis mobile and free of confining pressure, gives your little one the chance to maneuver the tight confines of the birth canal. Lucky baby, the cave did not flex at all!