6 Methods for Speeding Up Labor

Labor is unpredictable, particularly how long it lasts. While worrying that you won't make it to the hospital in time is common during pregnancy, you may also find yourself in the opposite situation: your labor is progressing very slowly.

Having a slow or stalled labor can increase the likelihood of needing medical intervention, such as a cesarean (C-section). However, there are several methods you can try to help labor along in the first stage or speed up a labor that is not progressing.


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How to Have a Faster Labor and Delivery

While every childbirth experience is unique and goes on its own timetable, there are things you can do that often will speed things along. Try these techniques for a faster labor and delivery.

  • Get on your feet by standing, walking, or squatting
  • Stimulate your breasts
  • Try massage or acupressure
  • Change positions
  • Give yourself a change of scenery
  • Use medical interventions

Standing and Walking

One of the main benefits of standing positions during labor is gravity, which helps increase pressure on the cervix and supports your baby's descent into the pelvis. If you are able to get up and walk around, you get the added benefits of movement.

In fact, women who are upright and moving around during labor typically have shorter labors, report less pain, receive less intervention and are more satisfied with their birth experience. Many women find that swaying, rocking, or even dancing eases their pain.

Breast Stimulation

Breast stimulation releases oxytocin into your bloodstream, which can bring on contractions. A breast pump can be used to stimulate your nipples or it can be done manually with your own fingers or help from a partner.

Some women find getting in the shower and letting the water beat down on their chest is enough to encourage the flow of oxytocin.

Pressure Techniques

Massage and acupressure can be very beneficial in helping to speed up a stalled labor. A general massage may help you relax, decrease your pain, or just be a nice change of pace.

Specific techniques in acupressure can hit points that allow your body to produce more oxytocin as well, thus increase contractions. This can be done by an acupressure specialist or a birth doula with special training. You can also talk to your massage therapist or acupuncturist to see if they have any helpful suggestions you or your support person can use yourselves.

Changing Positions

If your baby's position is slowing down the progression of labor, changing your position can make it easier for them to get into the best position for moving through your pelvis as labor progresses.

Try sitting on a birth ball or rocking chair. A type of exercise therapy ball called a peanut ball can also be used to ease labor and help speed things along, particularly if the baby's position is delaying progress. If you have an epidural and are not able to move around easily or safely on your own, ask your support person or nurse to help you move from side to side or sit up.

Getting a New Perspective

While it won't exactly speed up your labor the way standing or walking can, a change of scenery can provide distraction from the discomfort of labor, perhaps at least making it seem like the clock is moving a bit faster.

Getting into a new environment, even just for a little bit, can also help ease some of the mental stress that comes along with this process.

If you are at the hospital, try taking a walk down to the nursery to take a look at the newborns. You might even be able to leave the building for a short time; some hospitals have special areas on the property where you can get some fresh air and take a stroll.

If you are at home, try getting outside—even if only to stand in your own backyard. Too tired for a walk around the block? Try simply changing rooms. If you've been in the living room, get in bed for a while. Or if you've spent most of the day in bed, take a bath or try other relaxation techniques that use water.

Medical Intervention

Most experts recommend avoiding medical interventions unless they are necessary for the health of you or your baby. However, there are times when medical intervention is the best choice for you and your baby, such as if you're having a complication or your labor has slowed down or stopped progressing.

Medical interventions for stalled labor can include:

You and your doctor or midwife can discuss which intervention is right for you. The decision will depend on the point you're at in your labor and how close you are to being able to deliver, as well as other factors.

However, even if your labor is progressing more slowly than you expected, you may not need to intervene. As long as you as your baby are both doing fine, you may not have to do anything but wait.

5 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. World Health Organization. WHO Recommendations for Augmentation of Labour.

  2. Ondeck M. Healthy birth practice #2: walk, move around, and change positions throughout laborJ Perinat Educ. 2014;23(4):188–193. doi:10.1891/1058-1243.23.4.188

  3. Takahata K, Horiuchi S, Tadokoro Y, Shuo T, Sawano E, Shinohara K. Effects of breast stimulation for spontaneous onset of labor on salivary oxytocin levels in low-risk pregnant women: a feasibility studyPLoS One. 2018;13(2):e0192757. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0192757

  4. Mafetoni RR, Shimo AK. The effects of acupressure on labor pains during child birth: randomized clinical trialRev Lat Am Enfermagem. 2016;24:e2738. doi:10.1590/1518-8345.0739.2738

  5. Lothian JA. Healthy birth practice #4: avoid interventions unless they are medically necessary. J Perinat Educ. 2014;23(4):198-206. doi:10.1891/1058-1243.23.4.198

Additional Reading
  • Simkin P, Hanson L, Ancheta R. The Labor Progress Handbook: Early Interventions to Prevent and Treat Dystocia. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.; 2017.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.