For many years, women and midwives who wished to work with upright positions in childbirth had little choice but to squat on the floor. If they were lucky, they may have had use of one of the well-intentioned but nevertheless backyard-style “birthing stools” available — or they had one made for them! Midwives and women found that the few commercial designs available did not really offer all of what they needed. Women felt those stools to be uncomfortable and lacking stability, while midwives expressed reservations about view and access. Furthermore, perineal engorgement from narrow, horizontal sitting surfaces was often observed. Wooden models — both padded and unpadded — also presented midwives with hygiene challenges.
All this changed in 1996 with the arrival of the first BirthRite Birthing Seat. The Seat was designed by experienced midwifery practitioner and educator, Monika Boenigk, who despaired of the poor quality and lack of inspiration emanating from birthing devices. Only the best would be good enough for her hard-working labouring women. It was time to introduce some Zen into the birthing room!
Monika’s invention was to be not just another birthing stool. All those years of close and thoughtful observation of women in labour had convinced her that more could be achieved with a design that really took cognizance of the mechanics of labour. She envisioned a Birthing Seat that would “by its sheer shape, tilt, height and support, promote a position for the labouring mother in which her internal messages would become clearer to her and assist her in finding the strength she needed to birth her baby.”
Hundreds of midwives around the world have found that she got it right. The BirthRite Birthing Seat is now used in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, USA, Canada, Mexico, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Japan, Indonesia and Viet Nam. Users range from large university medical centres and teaching hospitals to smaller country hospitals, stand-alone birthing centres and independent midwifery practitioners and doulas. Many pregnant women have purchased Seats themselves to take with them into birthing centres which lacked facilities for upright birthing!
Researchers, too, have chosen the BirthRite Birthing Seat for their study of upright positions in birthing. (See, for example, the Swedish Birth Seat Trial.)
The upright position on the Birthing Seat feels natural and supportive and enables the woman to remain empowered throughout her birthing experience. Being seated gives her more control during crowning of the head, reducing the possibility of injury to perineum and vagina.
A broad seat area provides safe, comfortable support for all body shapes. Stability is an important feature and is ensured by a broad, solid base. Stainless steel gripping handles are precisely located to facilitate leverage and stability whilst rocking or bearing down during labour (hence promoting the woman’s active role in the birthing process); they also act as carrying handles for transporting the Seat from one location to another.
The design incorporates curved edges that allow the woman to place her legs and feet well apart, giving ample room for the baby to be born. Her thighs can roll outwards, thus opening up the birthing area. The coccyx is unimpeded in its excursion as the baby’s head descends.
A special feature of the BirthRite Birthing Seat is the unique inclined sitting surface which secures the labouring woman in an ideal posture, the angle being carefully contrived to promote:–
- optimal alignment of the baby in the birth passage — women typically comment that they can instantly feel “where the baby needs to go” once they are seated on the BirthRite Seat
- beneficial movements of the pelvic bones
- less pressure on the perineum, and hence less perineal engorgement, than with a horizontal surface
- complete relaxation of the woman when leaning into her partner or the BirthRite Backrest
- perineal views and access that midwives find reassuring
Precision-manufactured in high impact fibreglass overlaid with hospital-grade isophthalic gelcoat, the BirthRite Seat is enduring and satisfies stringent infection control requirements. The single-mould design allows easy cleaning using any currently appoved hospital disinfectant. With no moving parts, it is reliable and requires minimal maintenance.
Please note that there are currently two models of Birthing Seat. One is recessed on the underside (see illustration at left), so that it interlocks with the tongue on the BirthRite Backrest. The other is flat on the underside and is not suitable for use with the Backrest. So, when ordering a Birthing Seat by itself, it’s a good idea to consider your future needs, as well as your present ones, when it comes to specifying which model you wish to purchase.
The Seat is ideally placed on the BirthRite Birthing Mat, but it can be placed on all smooth surfaces from carpet to bathroom tiles and may also be used under the shower if placed on a non-slip rubber mat.
A tailored Padded Pouch is available for travel and domiciliary use.