Benefits of Squatting for Birth

This Centuries-Old Birthing Position May Be Right for You

Prenatal yoga class
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In recent decades, modern medicine has ignored one of the most effective positions for giving birth: squatting. The advantages of squatting have been well-known for centuries among cultures around the globe. Current western medical practice, however, 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 to a mother who isn't squatting during labor.

Benefits 

Under the right circumstances, squatting can offer many benefits to the laboring mother, which can include:

  • Shortening the second stage of labor (pushing phase)
  • Decreasing the need for interventions like forceps or vacuum deliveries
  • Reducing the need for an episiotomy
  • Shortening the depth of the birth canal
  • Working with gravity to help bring the baby down
  • Increasing the pelvic diameter 

Preparation

The beneficial outcomes related to squatting are due to the way it tilts the uterus and pelvis forward, placing the baby in proper alignment for birth. Squatting also encourages and strengthens the intensity of contractions, while simultaneously relieving back pressure. It may also reduce the need for episiotomy, as squatting helps relax and stretch the pelvic floor muscle.

Carefully practice squatting while pregnant to strengthen your legs if you plan to squat during birth. You can start with the help of your partner or with the use of a birth ball (physical therapy ball). Go slowly, and place your feet steadily on the floor as you are learning. Always discuss your birth plans and preparations with your doctor.

Some women squat during labor while others reserve squatting for the actual time of birth. Ask your midwife or doctor about safe positions for squatting on the bed. Leaning on your partner or making use of hospital or birth center squat bars or stools can help.

If you want to try squatting during labor, it's important to share this with your doctor or midwife in advance. They may be able to offer helpful tips or precautions that you should consider. If they are not familiar with squatting, it gives them a chance to learn more about the process and determine how to best accommodate your wishes. A doula is another resource you can access for more information on squatting during birth.

When You Should Not Squat

No birthing technique is perfect for everyone or every situation. Squatting is generally preferable for the latter stages of labor, as opposed to the beginning. Sometimes, 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 help encourage natural labor and birth. Ultimately, listening to your doctor's advice will best protect you and your baby throughout the birthing process. Planning ahead is important, but so is being flexible. Be prepared to adjust your plan as needed when the time comes to deliver.

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 woman, the first birthing experience may be very different on the second or third time around. Aim to balance your intuition with advice from a qualified healthcare professional who understands your unique situation. Well-intended family and friends may offer a lot of advice, but the choices you make for your birthing plan are yours alone to make.

If everything doesn't go according to plan in the delivery room, try not to be too hard on yourself. Giving birth is unpredictable, even for the most experienced and knowledgeable providers and moms. Always remember to be kind to yourself throughout (and after) pregnancy.

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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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