Belly mapping—a term you probably haven’t heard from your OB-GYN, but I believe it can help mamas have a more optimal natural childbirth.
Belly mapping helps you know baby’s position in utero
…and then take any necessary action to help baby into a more ideal position for birth.
I was clueless about how my first baby, Griffin, was positioned. I knew he should be head down. I also went to a Webster chiropractor to loosen and balance my pelvis for an optimal birth. I climbed stairs. I did squats. But I didn’t really understand how Griffin was truly presenting in my womb—or what the best position for him would be.
The result? A Very. Long. Labor.
I’m talking 27 hours. With horrible back pain. Griffin got stuck, and the birth stalled for a good 4 hours. When he finally did come out, I’ll never forget how “coned” his head was. Alien baby! Fortunately, the midwife got that little baby cap on him quick 😉
In retrospect, Griffin was probably posterior and favoring my right side. Whereas the ideal presentation is left and anterior. (I learned this as I started to research baby mapping!)
This time around, I’m trying to be more proactive
I want to get baby in a good position now so I don’t have to struggle with a more complicated birth later.
Are you with me? Okay. Let’s talk about how to do belly mapping…
My inspiration for this post
Gaily Tully of SpinningBabies.com is the pioneer and creator of the Belly Mapping process. She was gracious enough to let me share her concept will all of you. She asked that I include the following information: Belly Mapping, SPINNING BABIES® and all original works of authorship contained in Gail Tully’s associated publications, websites and related platforms are the property of Gail Tully and Maternity House Publishing, Inc., with all rights expressly reserved. Excepting uses otherwise permissible under applicable law, any/all uses require written licensing from Maternity House Publishing, Inc.
Start in the latter half of the 2nd trimester
This is when baby settles into his/her “home” position, and you can tell if your pelvis is balanced or not. It’s much easier to establish good positions for baby now versus later in 3rd trimester.
Obviously, we want our baby to be head down. A head up, or breech presentation, can be very difficult; in some states it’s a mandatory c-section. Fortunately, there are exercises we can do to help flip baby, and most babies prefer head down orientation.
But head down is not enough if you want a smooth, natural childbirth. The next most important thing to consider is if your baby is posterior (baby facing outwards or looking at mama’s belly) or anterior (baby is facing mama’s back). Anterior is the favored position because it encourages the baby to tuck their head and chin, creating the smallest head circumference as he/she passes through the birth canal.
Posterior, on the other hand, presses the hardest part of the baby’s head against the mother’s spine, where pain receptors lie, and can cause major back labor pain.
Belly Mapping can help you determine what position your baby is in and then take the necessary steps to “spin” baby to the right position for optimal birth.
What you will need
The first thing you’ll need to do belly mapping is your 7-8 month pregnant belly! Next, a non-toxic marker or bottle of finger paint. It’s also handy to have a doll or some kind of prop with head, limbs, and back to use to help you visualize your baby.
As a general rule, it’s best to do belly mapping after 30 weeks, and shortly after a doctor or midwife appointment, as a birth professional can help you determine if baby’s head is down or up.
First, let’s find your baby’s head
For most mamas, that means head down. If you haven’t been to a doctor’s appointment for awhile, you can feel for yourself by laying down on bed and putting slight pressure around your pelvic area. The head will feel like a mini bowling bowl.
The baby’s hands and arms will most likely be near the baby’s head, as they like to suck their fingers and have them close to their face.
Think also about movement. Are you feeling small movements near pelvis? Do they feel more outward facing and centralized (posterior), or are they more internal and to one side (anterior)?
Next, find the heartbeat
Again, your doctor or midwife can help you pinpoint the heartbeat. I recommend using a fetoscope, as it doesn’t use any ultrasound. Once you know where heartbeat is, mark it on your belly.
The heart will obviously be part of the baby’s back and you should feel a hard, long mass. If you can’t find hardness like this, it’s probably because your baby is in a posterior position, in which case you are going to feel a softer area, which usually indicates the baby’s limbs and belly (or it could be an anterior placenta). Either way, mark this area on your belly as part of your belly mapping
Here’s where that doll comes in
Now, as part of belly mapping, use your doll prop and start playing with positions based on the head and back locations. This will help you visualize how baby is resting in your womb.
Next up, let’s find your baby’s butt. This will be hard and round and can sometimes feel like the head. Draw a symbolic “butt” on your belly.
Now, think about movement again. Where are you feeling your baby move the most? Of course, you’ll feel their legs the most giving you those baby kicks. Also, the knees can create substantial movement.
Keep in mind there will be some variations since baby can bend knees or extend legs, but you should still be able to sense a pattern. Are you feeling the kicks up to one side of your ribs (anterior)? Or are they falling on both sides of your upper abdomen (posterior)? Mark it down on your belly.
Again, use your doll to see how baby is positioned now that you are complete. Now you can think about baby in a whole new way.
You can get creative with your belly mapping!
My belly map was more about function than art, but some people go all out with their belly mapping projects:
What if baby is in a “bad” position?
Is your baby in a less than ideal position, do not despair. You still have time to reposition baby… even if it’s during labor. Here are 7 easy exercises to help your baby’s position.
Final thought on belly mapping
If you’re interested in baby positioning, I highly recommend finding a doula and/or midwife that understands baby positioning and belly mapping. With their expertise, they can help you get baby into the best position for birth.
How about you?
Have you ever done belly mapping? Did it help you? How was your baby positioned? Share with us in the comments below!