What is station?
Have you heard of a doctor or midwife referring to the term “station”? Station means the position of the baby through the pelvis. Basically, it tells you where baby is in their journey through the pelvis.
Firstly, station is measured as baby engages down through the pelvis. A doctor or midwife can measure station during a pelvic exam. Secondly, the pelvis has two openings, also called the inlet and the outlet. In order to move through the pelvis in birth, baby has to engage into the pelvic inlet. Labor and rotation support baby’s descent through the mid pelvis. Lastly, baby has to rotate and descend through the pelvic outlet for birth.
Station is measured from –3 to +3. A baby that is floating high above the pelvis is considered to be –3 station and crowning is +3 station. Also, a baby is said to be “engaged” in the pelvis at 0 station. This means that baby’s head is aligned with the ischial spines of the pelvis. Many babies will be in this position before labor starts, especially for a first-time mother. Also, in second or more pregnancies, baby may not engage into the pelvis before labor starts.
Why does station matter?
It’s important to know where your baby is in your pelvis during birth. Firstly, this information gives us a clue as to what techniques and positions can be used to support your labor. Secondly, it gives an understanding of labor progress. Station gives us information that we can use to make choices to open the pelvic inlet (brim) or the outlet for birth. This supports baby’s descent through the pelvis and ultimately can lead to an easier birth experience. It’s good to know!
Your birth doula can help offer suggestions to support opening the inlet or outlet of your pelvis.
However, many families choose not to have pelvic exams during birth. It’s also possible to infer station based on labor progress and progression. You can still make decisions to support baby’s movement even if you don’t have a pelvic exam.
Opening the Pelvic Inlet
If baby is not engaged into the pelvis (-3 station), then it is very helpful to use techniques to open the pelvic inlet. The pelvic inlet is the top of the pelvis. This is the first place your baby needs to move through in birth.
Abdominal Lift and Tuck
An abdominal lift and tuck is a great technique to engage baby into the pelvis in early labor (at –3 or –2 station). This must be done during a contraction.
- When a contraction begins, wrap your hands together underneath your belly and lift about 2 inches.
- Bring your belly in towards your spine. It will be somewhat uncomfortable because of contraction pressure, but use your personal judgement.
- Bend your knees slightly and flatten your lower back by tucking in your pelvis.
- Hold your belly this way for the entire contraction.
- After the contraction, release and relax.
- Continue this technique for 10 contractions.
Birth Ball Circles
Sit on your birth ball. Move your pelvis in lively circles in each direction.
The standing release is a great technique to release tissue tension that may prevent baby from engaging in the pelvis.
- Stand near a wall and open your feet about hip width.
- Lean forward to touch the wall.
- Have a partner place one hand lightly on your sacrum and another hand lightly on your lower abdomen.
Opening the Pelvic Outlet
Firstly, the pelvic outlet is the exit of your pelvis. Your baby has to move in the inlet and out the outlet. Secondly, there are many techniques that can be used to specifically open the outlet of your pelvis. This allows your baby to have more room to rotate through to crowning. In station terms, this is the time beyond engagement at +1 to +3.
Narrow the Knees
This rad position changes the outlet of the pelvis to allow more space. By changing the position of the femur bones, you can manipulate the pelvis. This is also called close kneed pushing.
Simply shift your knees close together and feet apart. This is a great position for pushing if the provider can see baby’s head but little progress is happening.
This is exactly as it sounds. You can squat while holding onto something near you. Also, you could support yourself on the ground in a semi-squat or have a partner support you. Squatting can increase the pelvic diameter by 2 cm!
Considerations – Why does station matter??
Station matters in birth. You wouldn’t want to squat in early labor because it would tighten the opening of your pelvis. Knowing where baby is in your pelvis can help you choose tools for a more comfortable and easier birth experience. Also, I find that these movements are very instinctual in birth. For example, many women often naturally assume a squatting position while pushing. We can combine the science of birth with the art of intuition to have a better birth experience.
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