The 6 Best Positions for Giving Birth, According to Experts

Pregnant person leans on birthing ball.

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When planning for labor and delivery, it's natural to have a lot of questions ranging from what you're allowed to eat in the hospital to what level of pain you might expect. You might also be wondering what position is best for giving birth, or if it even matters at all.

The short answer is that the best position for you will be the one that makes you feel the most comfortable. Research suggests that many people are still giving birth while lying flat on their backs, but it's worth noting that a host of other positions are available that might be more comfortable and effective.

“You can deliver in any position,” says Mimi Niles, PhD, MPH, CNM, an assistant professor and faculty fellow at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and a practicing nurse midwife. Susan Lipinski, MD, OB/GYN at Obstetrix of Colorado, part of Pediatrix Medical Group, agrees, noting that it's truly a matter of personal choice. “Depending on your baby’s positioning inside your body, some birthing poses may be more comfortable than others.”

Your OB/GYN, midwife, or healthcare provider may give you some suggestions since they monitor you and your unborn baby. For example, Niles encourages her patients to try various positions throughout the progression of labor.

You may also have to consider what kind of pain relief you'll be using, as that may affect your ability to get into certain poses. “Epidurals limit control of legs/lower body, so that may limit positions,” says Dr. Lipinski.

Ahead, learn more about some of the most commonly selected—and effective—positions for giving birth.


Don’t dismiss standing as a potentially good option. “I’ve seen people give birth in every single position, including standing, so it is possible,” says Niles. 

Standing is a position that can take advantage of gravity, and as a review in The Journal of Perinatal Education notes, many historical images depict people giving birth in standing positions in order to “improve efficiency and reduce maternal fatigue.” Some research suggests that the first stage of labor seems to be shorter in people who are upright, rather than in a horizontal position.

If you feel comfortable standing, you might even try walking around. This may speed up your labor and possibly even reduce your pain.

However, this position is not for everyone. For example, it might not be suitable for laboring people who are at risk of falling, or if they have an epidural that limits their ability to stand. In the latter case, you might want to ask your healthcare provider about a walking epidural,


The authors of a 2017 Cochrane review noted that the squatting position is often called “the most natural position,” one that many birthing people worldwide choose when they are alone and in labor. 

“Squatting would be great for aiding the baby in passage through the birth canal,” says Cynthia Flynn, MD, an OB/GYN who practices in Florida and consults for JustAnswer

If you like this position, it can help by opening up your pelvis, notes Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, MS/MBA, an OB/GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist in New York. “You can use a squat bar or a partner for support,” she says. 

But there are some disadvantages to consider, too. “Realistically, it’s a hard position,” Dr. Flynn says. “It is dependent on strong leg muscles, good balance, and a good level of fitness. It’s also hard to hold when you are in pain.”


Sitting, whether it’s atop a stool, a birthing ball, or a bed, is also considered an upright position. Some research suggests that it can be helpful when it comes to harnessing gravity. The authors of the Cochrane review found that people who gave birth in an upright position did seem to reduce the length of time that they pushed, but the review also noted that the time saved was small—less than 10 minutes.

With this position, it’s easy to continue electronic fetal monitoring, and it doesn’t preclude the laboring person from having an epidural either, says Dr. Gaither. 

Lying on Your Side

This position can be beneficial at any time during labor or childbirth, according to Cassandra Partridge, RN, BSN, IBCLC, a certified birth and postpartum doula and clinical operations manager with Pacify. “During the labor part, where the mom is dilating, there may be times when she needs to rest, so side-lying is a great position for that,” she adds. 

The Journal of Perinatal Education notes that while you may lose the benefit of gravity in this position, you gain the ability to rest more fully between contractions. The side-lying position seems to also reduce the likelihood of perineal tearing.

Another advantage of this position: you can do it even if you’ve had an epidural or a spinal block, which might inhibit your ability to stand or walk around. 

Hands and Knees

Imagine yourself down on all fours while giving birth. “The hands and knees position is extremely helpful during pushing,” says Partridge. “It’s a great position for opening up the pelvis.” 

It can also be a good position for taking some of the stress off the laboring person’s back, notes Dr. Flynn. If it feels a little awkward, you can ask your support partner, nurse, or doula to put pillows or cushions under your belly. 

However, you’re not getting the extra advantage of gravity when you use this position. Also, your wrists may get tired after spending some time in this pose, so you may want to switch to another position periodically in order to give them a rest. 


If you don't want to sit or stand during delivery, you might want to consider a leaning position. You can lean on a bed, over a birthing ball, a birthing tub, on your partner, or on another object, whatever works best for you. 

“Leaning over a ball or a chair can be very comfortable for some women,” says Dr. Flynn. “It’s a more supported hands-and-knees position.”

A Word From Verywell

Planning for delivery can be both exciting and overwhelming, but the good news is that there are many options available for birthing positions. If you’re unsure which one will work best for you, your OB/GYN or healthcare provider can help provide some guidance. “It’s helpful to talk about those things before the labor, if possible, with your provider,” says Niles.

On the big day, you can try multiple positions to find what feels right. “Positioning in labor and pushing are very fluid, and it is recommended to change positions frequently to help with the descent of the baby,” says Dr. Lipinski.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. DiFranco JT, Curl M. Healthy birth practice #5: avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urge to push. The Journal of Perinatal Education. 2014;23(4):207-210. DOI: 10.1891/1058-1243.23.4.207

  2. Desseauve D, et al. Position for labor and birth: State of knowledge and biomechanical perspectives. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. 2017;208:46-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2016.11.006

  3. Ondeck M. Healthy birth practice #2: walk, move around, and change positions throughout laborThe Journal of Perinatal Education. 2014;23(4):188-193. DOI: 10.1891/1058-1243.23.4.188

  4. Gupta JK, Sood A, Hofmeyr GJ, Vogel JP. Position in the second stage of labour for women without epidural anaesthesiaCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2017;(5). doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002006.pub4

By Jennifer Larson
Jennifer Larson is a seasoned journalist who regularly writes about hard-hitting issues like Covid-19 and the nation's ongoing mental health crisis, as well as healthy lifestyle issues like nutrition and exercise. She has more than 20 years' of professional experience and hopes to log many more.