Birthing Chairs

While the use of birthing chairs has been around for centuries, it fell out of vogue during the twentieth century. As women increasingly claim back control over their labor and delivery experiences, the use of birthing chairs has become more popular again.

From Medieval Times to Today
A birthing chair may be one of the oldest aids used by women in labor. Chairs constructed specifically for birth can be seen as far back as medieval times when stools in the shape of horseshoes were used to help women when they were giving birth.

The low height of the chairs meant that women were positioned more in a squat than actually sitting. The basic design allowed the women to move their pelvis freely, which meant they could easily adjust themselves to a more comfortable position.

Today, birthing chairs have become much more elaborate, often with specific places for your feet and arms. Some chairs even allow health care providers to turn the chair into a delivery table if they wish. Some chairs have straps to help keep women in a particular position.

While this may be helpful to the person delivering your baby, it is not necessarily beneficial to you. A good birth chair should allow you to have full mobility, not restrict your movements in some way.

Pros and Cons of Birthing Chairs
So, why should you use a birthing chair? Many women find it more comfortable to give birth in a sitting or squatting position. Because of the position you are in, gravity assists you in your delivery, thereby making it a bit easier and maybe even faster for you.

But using a birthing chair does have its drawbacks. One problem experienced by some women is excessive tearing of their perineum. This happens when your baby's head puts extra pressure on your pelvis. While the tear is not a serious problem, it might lead to more discomfort and a longer healing time postpartum.

Another issue stems from the use of elaborate birth chairs. Because these chairs may actually inhibit movement on your part, you might find that you feel less empowered using a birthing chair. A chair that can quickly be converted into a delivery table may be convenient for your health care provider, but it also takes away the control you should have over your birth.

What to Look For
If you are considering using a birthing chair for your labor, and are having your birth in a hospital or a birthing center, ask to take a tour of the facilities first so that you can properly assess the birthing chair they have to offer. Does it allow you to move about easily? Do they only have one kind of birthing chair? Does it look more like a torture device than a chair?

Birthing chairs may have come a long way since medieval times, but sometimes the older, simpler designs work better.

Visit our Labor Questions forum to get the scoop on birthing chairs from other women

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