Benefits of Squatting for Birth

This Centuries-Old Birthing Position May Be Right for You

Prenatal yoga class
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One of the most effective positions to give birth in is one that you might not know about: squatting. The advantages of squatting to give birth have been well-known for centuries around the world. However, current western medical practice tends to favor birthing positions that are advantageous from the practitioner's standpoint.

Prone and semi-prone birthing positions are more conducive to the use of instruments, such as forceps, stirrups, and vacuum extractors. Medications, including epidural anesthesia, are also easier to administer when someone is not in a squatting position.

Benefits 

Under the right circumstances, squatting offers many benefits to someone who is in labor. Potential benefits of squatting to give birth include:

  • For people who are giving birth for the first time, it can short the second stage of labor (pushing phase)
  • Increases the pelvic diameter 
  • May decrease the need for interventions like forceps or vacuum deliveries
  • Reduces the need for an episiotomy
  • Shortens the depth of the birth canal
  • Works with gravity to help bring the baby down

Preparation

Squatting is beneficial because it tilts the uterus and pelvis forward, placing the baby in proper alignment for delivery. Squatting also encourages and strengthens the intensity of contractions, and can also relieve pressure in the back.

Squatting may also reduce the need for episiotomy because the position helps to relax and stretch the pelvic floor muscles.

If you want to use the squatting position to give birth, start practicing carefully while you are pregnant to strengthen your legs.

You can start with the help of a partner or with a birth ball (physical therapy ball). Place your feet steadily on the floor while you are still learning and go slowly.

Be sure to discuss your birth plans and preparations with your provider.

Some people squat throughout labor while others reserve the position for the actual time of birth. Ask your provider about how to safely squat on the bed. You can also lean on a partner or use squat bars or stools.

If you want to try squatting during labor, it's important to share this with your provider ahead of time. They can offer helpful tips and make sure that you understand the safety precautions necessary.

Talking to your provider early on will give them a chance to learn more about it if they are not familiar with using the position. A doula is another resource you can access for more information on squatting during labor and birth.

While planning ahead is important, so is being flexible. Be prepared to adjust your plan as needed when the time comes to deliver.

When You Should Not Squat

No birth technique is right for every person or every birth situation. Squatting is generally preferable for the latter stages of labor rather than at the beginning. In some cases, the baby's position is not optimal for squatting.

If you have an epidural, squatting can be unsafe—or even impossible. With the proper equipment and planning, however, a modified squat from a seated position may still be an option.

Labor and birth involve physical movement. Squatting is one strategy to encourage natural labor and birth. Ultimately, heed your provider's advice to keep you and your baby safe throughout labor and delivery.

A Word From Verywell

Pregnancy can be a very exciting time, but it can also be nerve-racking. Keep in mind that what works for one person doesn't work for everyone. Even for the same person, the first birthing experience can be very different than the second or third time around.

Balance your intuition with advice from a provider who understands your situation. Well-intended family and friends might offer advice, but the choices that you make for your birthing plan are yours alone to make.

Try not to be too hard on yourself if things don't go according to your plan in the delivery room. The process of giving birth can be unpredictable—even for the most experienced providers and parents.

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Article Sources
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  1. Lawrence A, Lewis L, Hofmeyr GJ, Styles C. Maternal positions and mobility during first stage labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(8):CD003934. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003934.pub3

  2. Gupta JK, Hofmeyr GJ, Shehmar M. Position in the second stage of labour for women without epidural anaesthesia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;(5):CD002006. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002006.pub3

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