Fetal positioning plays a very important role to the duration, intensity, and overall success of vaginal deliveries, and so mapping out where your baby is lying, will help you have a good idea of whether or not you need to do more activities to get baby into an ideal position.
You may hear that your baby is head down, transverse, or breech. Head down is the most ideal position to birth a baby, and if your baby happens to still be in a transverse (sideways) or breech (head up) position past approximately the 33 week mark, it’s good to try extra activities and exercises to try to turn your baby into a head down position (there are some fantastic resources out there, on how to turn your baby).
Your care provider may be able to tell you whether your baby is head down, transverse, or breech, just by feeling the outside of your tummy, or sending you for an ultrasound, however, they most likely won’t be able to tell you which direction your baby is facing, which can play another big roll during labour. So this is where belly mapping can come in.
Belly mapping is best done around or after the 35 week mark, because before then, babies may still be floating around, before settling into the pelvis.
When baby is head down, how the head is positioned in the pelvis, is defined as LOA, OP, ROP, etc. The most ideal position for birth is LOA ((left occiput anterior) - this is the best way for baby to fit into the pelvis), but if a baby starts out in a different position, they will often rotate on their own before the head engages into the pelvis. Sometimes, the head might get a bit “stuck” in one position before entering the pelvis, and interventions may be needed - this is often because pelvic muscles are too tight or imbalanced.
L, R - The first letter will be defined as Left, Right, this tells us which side the occiput is located - the left side or your pelvis or right side. No beginning letter means that the occiput is either directly in front or directly to the back.
O - The second letter is Occiput, which is essentially the crown of baby’s head. Doctors and midwives can determine what position the baby is in during labour, by feeling the fontanelles, if baby is low enough, and there is enough dilation.
A, P, T - The third letter defines where the baby is facing; Posterior (“sunny side up”) - when the baby is facing toward your belly. Anterior - when baby is facing toward your back. Transverse - when baby is facing to the side.
OA - Occiput Antertior
LOA - Left Occiput Anterior
LOT - Left Occiput Transverse
ROA - Right Occiput Anterior
OP - Occiput Posterior
LOP - Left Occiput Posterior
ROP - Right Occiput Posterior
ROT - Right Occiput Transverse