Positions in Labor You May Not Have Considered

Woman Laboring on all fours in bed
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Let’s face it, when it comes to labor, most people think about a hospital and women in beds, typically on their backs, or laying down on their sides. These positions became common as epidural anesthesia rates rose. Women were unable to move around a lot and therefore, we stopped thinking about labor as a process that involved maternal positions.

Using Different Positions in Labor

As many women are now opting to not use epidural anesthesia or to at least delay it until later into labor, they are finding that the use of positions can help them stay much more comfortable in labor. Some labor positions may help correct a baby who is in a less than a favorable position in labor. It can also help mothers feel more confident and even decrease the amount of time in labor.

So what can you do to begin to think about other positions in which to labor? The first is to think about being off your back and as upright as possible. Remember that in labor, gravity is your friend, helping to bring that baby down and out.  Here are some quick positions that you should consider:

  • Standing: This is a great way to be simply upright, without a lot to think about. You might want to lean on your partner or doula. If you’re leaning on a person, consider swaying while you’re contracting. This can add to the comfort you feel. Hangover a ball on the bed or even a pile of pillows.
  • Walking: This is great for labor. While many people think about it for early labor, you can also do this at nearly any point in labor. You may wish to stop during a contraction. Some laboring people decide to lean on someone or the wall. You might also consider slow dancing as an alternative during a contraction.
  • Kneeling: This is a great position and one that can be done in many places. Perhaps you would like to kneel on the floor and lean over a chair or ball. (I do recommend some padding for your knees. Think a towel or gardening mat.) You can also kneel on the bed and be facing the back of the bed lean into it or hang your arms over the back. (This works best when you move the back of the bed into an upright position.)
  • All Fours: This can also be done on the floor or the bed. It’s a great position for stretching your back and even taking a bit of a break. This can also help if your baby is posterior by allowing the baby to move out of the pelvis and rotate more easily. Some mothers also say that this position is really comfortable and feels like a break in contractions. All Fours is also a great position to call your partner or doula to give you a back massage or use counter pressure to relieve back pain.
  • Sitting on a Ball: A birth ball (also known as a physiotherapy ball or exercise ball) can be really comfortable with pregnancy and labor. Keeping your bottom on something softer than the chairs. Also, the fact that it moves around makes it so easy to move around. This can help you feel more comfortable. 
  • Squatting: Many women are hearing about squatting for labor, but at the sign of the first contraction they want to squat. This is not the ideal time. Generally, this is better for later in labor and even better in pushing. It uses gravity to bring the baby down. If you don’t want to squat on the floor at the hospital, you can consider squatting on the bed. Many hospitals have beds that have special squatting bars to make it more comfortable. It can also help if you need to be monitored with belts.
  • Water: Water can mean a shower, bath or a special tub. The availability of water will depend on your place of birth and the facilities. There may also be reasons why you can’t be in the water. Water can be a great way to relax, you can stand, sit, or even lay in the water. This is a very flexible area in which to use two positions. 
  • Toilet: Don’t laugh! The toilet is a great place to labor. You can sit normally or even turn around backward. Either way, a pillow to cover up any exposed pipes can make it more comfortable. Most hospitals will make you leave the bathroom once you are pushing unless you’ve made other arraignments with your practitioner. Moms say that the ability to relax their bottoms here is really great. They aren’t worried about urine or stool.

In many labors, you will actually use a lot of positions, not just one or two. Try one for awhile and then switch to another. You might also consider changing positions at least every hour. Even if you have an epidural, some position changes can be made with the help of your nurse, doula, and partner. So get up and get moving!

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Article Sources

  • The Labor Progress Handbook. Simkin, P, and Ancheta, R. Wiley-Blackwell; 2nd edition.
    Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Sixth Edition.