Seven Cardinal Movements of Birth


Did you know that during birth your baby goes through a series of movements to try and position itself just perfectly to allow for the smallest part of its body to be born first?

These movements where your baby shifts themselves into position are known as the seven cardinal movements and begin at or just before the onset of labor and continue until your baby is born.

What are the Seven Cardinal Movements that babies make during birth?

  • Engagement
  • Descent and Flexion
  • Internal Rotation
  • Extension
  • External Rotation
  • Expulsion

Let’s take a deeper look into each part.


Your baby is “engaged” when the widest part of their head (measured from ear tip to ear tip across the head) has passed into the pelvic inlet. This is the start of the birthing process and the baby getting themselves into the position for birth. This is the point your provider is referring to when they describe your baby’s station as “0”.

Descent & Flexion

These two cardinal movements go hand in hand
Descent, sometimes called “lightening”, is the movement of your
baby’s head through the bony part of the pelvis and reaches the depth
of the pelvic cavity. As descent happens, flexion is also occurring. During flexion, your
baby’s head pushes against pelvic tissue, aligning their head with
their chin toward their chest.

Internal Rotation

Your baby rotates his/her head and body from side to side to front to back
to navigate the changing diameters of the pelvis.


After internal rotation is complete and the head passes through the pelvis
at the nape of the neck, a rest occurs as the neck is under the pubic arch.
Extension occurs as the head, face, and chin are born.

External Rotation

After the head of your baby is born, there is a slight pause in the action of labor. During this pause, your baby will rotate from face-down to 90 degrees to face towards one of your thighs.


Your baby’s body follows the rotation of the head and this allows the top
and then bottom shoulders to be born!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY!!! You and your mom worked so hard for this

Here are three tips to help your body and baby work together for a
smoother labor and delivery

  1. Hire a doula. Hiring a professionally certified labor and birth doula to support you during labor makes for a more comfortable labor experience, even if you are choosing to have a medicated birth.
    Your doula will help with different comfort measures and positions to help your baby navigate these cardinal movements.
  2. Chiropractic Care. Regular care by a Webster-certified chiropractor during pregnancy helps ensure your body is prepared for birth.
  3. Optimal Pushing Position. When it comes time to push, pushing with gravity can help make the process much simpler. Take the time to talk with your provider and explore physiologically natural positions for delivery.

We’d love to walk you through our process and show you how we can support you.

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