11.2.1  Is the baby vertical?

Most babies are lying vertically by the seventh month, with the baby’s head towards the cervix of the uterus. This is the safest position for a normal delivery. To find out if the baby is vertical, lay one hand flat on each side of the mother’s abdomen. Press in gently but firmly, first with one hand, and then with the other (Figure 11.1a). Check the shape carefully. Do the ends of the baby seem to be in the mother’s sides (Figure 11.1b)? If so, the baby is probably lying sideways. Many babies lie sideways in the first months, but most turn head down by eight months or so. Babies cannot be born through the vagina from the sideways position. A baby that is sideways and cannot be turned when labour starts must be born by caesarean surgery in a hospital.

Important!If the baby is lying sideways after eight months’ gestation, refer the woman to a Health Centre.

Feeling a mother’s belly. (a) is vertical, head or bottom down. (b) is horizontal, head or bottom on the sides
Figure 11.1 (a) Feel the mother’s belly with your hands on each side, pushing gently with each hand in turn. You should be able to feel the baby lying vertically — ideally head down. (b) If the baby is lying sideways, you can usually feel its head and bottom in the mother’s sides.

It can be difficult to feel the position of the baby if the mother has very strong muscles on her abdomen, or if she has a lot of fat on her abdomen. If you have a hard time feeling the position, ask the mother to take a deep breath and let it out slowly, and to relax her body as you palpate (feel) her abdomen.

11.2  Feeling the mother’s abdomen

11.2.2  Is the baby facing the mother’s front, or her back?