Relaxbirth: The Birthing Chair with Flair

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She’s sleek! She’s built for comfort! She handles bumps like a dream! Yes, I am talking about the hottest birth tool to come out of Finland, the Relaxbirth chair. The Relaxbirth chair was designed to help women change positions during labor, specifically to help utilize upright positioning during the labor process. Research has shown that upright positioning has a number of benefits to a laboring mother, including increased pelvic diameter, utilization of gravitational force for the baby’s descent, and maximization of a woman’s ability to push. This last benefit is especially important, as it has been associated with fewer pushes, less trauma to the birth canal and perineum, and fewer births necessitating interventions such as forceps and vacuum delivery.

Some have pegged the Relaxbirth chair as a glorified birthing chair (also called a birthing stool), but we see it this way: we live in a time when we can buy groceries with our smart phone and our cars can park themselves... Why not modernize the birthing chair?! I like amenities and luxuries as much as the next gal, so why should our birth experience be any different?

A brief history of birth chairs traces us as far back as 1450 BCE, where there are pictures on an Egyptian birth house’s walls of a queen giving birth on a chair (Say it with me: If it’s good enough for a queen, it’s good enough for me!). Throughout history, women giving birth in an upright position has been depicted in Asian, African, and Native American Art, and has been noted by anthropologists and missionaries all over the world. Birthing chairs lost popularity with obstetricians and their patients once giving birth flat on a hospital bed became the norm, but made a comeback in the 1980s when providers started giving women more options for their childbirth experience.

There are plenty of birthing chairs currently on the market and housed in various hospitals and birth centers, but none that have the bells and whistles of the Relaxbirth chair. It runs on an electric motor so that both the seat and the handlebars can adjust vertically. This accommodates both for height differences as well as helps laboring women find the positions that are comfortable for them. The seat can also swing to the side so that the mother can sit on a birthing ball and still use the other features of the chair. It’s adjustable in numerous ways so that a birth partner or doula can easily access the mother’s hips, back, shoulders, and more for massage and other comfort measures.

While we recognize the Relaxbirth chair may not be appealing to everyone, at CLEbaby we are always thrilled when women have options for their birthing experience. Whether it’s a hospital bed, an old-school stool, or a fancy electric birthing chair, we want women to feel comfortable in their labor environment, and excited about their diversity of options. Currently there’s only one Relaxbirth chair in the U.S., and it’s local! Summa Akron City Hospital was specifically chosen by the creators of Relaxbirth because of their “reputation for innovation and evidence-based practice.” We’re really looking forward to supporting our clients who choose to use this tool!

Women can request to use the Relaxbirth chair if they are low-risk, and enrolled in the research study. If you want to see the chair live in action, here’s a video of a mother using it for both labor and delivery: Birthing with Relaxbirth (VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED: This is a live birth; there is graphic content!). If you think the chair might be something you’d like to utilize for your birth, or if you’d like more information, contact Jennifer Doyle, Principal Investigator at Summa Akron City Hospital at 330-375-3718 or doylej@summahealth.org.