It is natural for many, even most pregnant women, to experience intense labor sensations or pain prior to birth, which is why it is essential to learn effective techniques on how to cope during labor and delivery. You will need to come up with a birth plan or preferences that will suit you and your baby’s specific needs perfectly.
If you want to have a natural birthing experience, the first thing you must do is make sure that you are prepared physically, emotionally, and mentally. And with the support of Midwives, Doctors, and other specializing health professionals, you can manage labor with confidence in your ability to cope with labor. You might even get access to personalized health, fitness, and wellness plans that can teach you methods on how to relax your muscles during labor, how to get both parents involved in the birthing process, as well as tips on how to get breastfeeding established and learning to look after your new-born.
To get you started, here are some of the most beneficial as well as practical positions that can be used during labor and birth. Upright positions during labor have been shown to result in a 23% reduction in assisted deliveries, up to 30% more space in your pelvis, a 54% reduction in babies becoming distressed by dropping their heart rate in labor, and a huge 29% reduction in emergency C sections. So, learning about positions is the best way to prepare for a natural birth and avoid complications.
Upright Labor Positions: How to manage labor with movement
During the active labor stage, where the contractions are most frequent before the actual birth of the baby, sensations are often intense and can be particularly challenging. Changing position regularly is one of the main ways to make this stage as manageable as possible, not only easing pain but, as research has shown, helping to make the labor shorter and safer for mom and baby. The most important thing to remember, though, is that you should listen to your body and move as much or as little as you want and into any position that feels right for you at the time. Don’t exhaust yourself trying lots of positions just for the sake of it; only do what you feel you need or want to.
During pregnancy, especially in the late stages, walking regularly is a great way to remain healthy and active. Not only will it be good for your physical and mental health, but it can also help your baby get into a great position ready for when labor begins! Walking and remaining active can also really help you to cope in early labor and can make contractions less painful, as well as encouraging the baby to move into and through your pelvis. So, if you want to walk in labor or dance, or just stand up swaying your hips, at least you know it really is helping you both!
Climbing The Stairs
Slow-paced stairs climbing is another excellent way to encourage contractions in early labor by moving your baby down onto your cervix, increasing dilation. A few steps up and down can move the joints in your pelvis while you are upright, helping the baby to be in the ideal position for an easier birth. A few steps up and down in early labor will help you cope without making you too tired.
The sitting position is useful during the earlier parts of labor as it allows you to rest but keeps you upright. Again, this helps the baby be in a great position for birth and uses gravity to help move him or her down through your pelvis during contractions. You can use a birth ball or stool for this as it allows you to keep your hips moving even though you are sitting.
Squatting is a great position for some people. However, you need to practice it beforehand or use support to lean over in labor as it is difficult to stay balanced if you are not a super fit yoga bod. The main advantage of squatting is that it can open the joints of the pelvis and gives the baby room to move more easily through the birth canal. Getting your birth partner’s assistance using stable support can make it less tiring and difficult than when done alone.
Hands and Knees Position
Also known as ‘all fours’ when you lean forward on both knees and support your upper body with your hands and arms. This position can feel extra comfortable and can relieve back pain that can be experienced during labor. It allows you to remain mobile and able to freely move your hips and back and lets your contractions work effectively to move your baby down the birth canal. Your arms can get tired in a long-term hands and knees position unless you lean over or rest on a support, but it is a great position as part of your active labor and birth plan.
Lying on The Side Position
Even in the most active labor, there are times when rest is needed. Laying on your side can be effective by still allowing the back of your pelvis to move freely, helping the baby move through the pelvis. Being able to totally relax in between contractions is helpful for a long labor, for those with high blood pressure or those that have their mobility restricted for any reason. Flipping from one side to another encourages the baby to descend and rotate to an ideal position ready to be born.
Lunging Position (AKA Asymmetrical kneeling)
Lunging refers to kneeling on one knee with your other foot flat on the floor. This position stretches the joints of the pelvis when you alternate sides and can be particularly helpful in easing any pain in your hips. Opening the pelvis helps the baby rotate and descend right into the birth canal. Just ensure that you are accompanied by someone who can help you keep your balance and prevent you from falling over.
Delivery Positions: What Are The Most Common Birthing Positions
Labor is only part of the story, of course! You still need to give birth to your baby at the end of labor. If you have opted for an unmedicated natural birth, you will instinctively move into a position that feels right for you. For some, this could be kneeling, side-lying, squatting or even standing. If you and your baby are coping well with labor and there are no medical concerns, your Midwife or Doctor may offer you the use of a birth stool, CUB support, a birth tub, or even a birth bar attached to the bed to help you squat. They may suggest positions that they think may be helpful for you. Even those that choose epidural can try different birthing positions based on how much they can move themselves. For example, side-lying is easy with an epidural. What is most important is that you are supported to be in a position that is the best way to give birth to your baby at that time.
Semi Sitting or Reclining for Birth
Although this is a common position, research has shown that semi-sitting or reclining (at more than a 45% angle) is the least physiologically beneficial position for giving birth out of all positions. It is preferred by some providers because it is easier for them to see a baby being born. However, it may not be what is easiest for you. Many women/birthing people find themselves in this position during the pushing stage of labor and feel more relaxed this way when giving birth. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that this position not only goes against gravity, but it also stops your pelvis from being as open as possible, so increases the likelihood of the baby becoming ‘stuck’ and needing medical assistance. If you choose to be in this position and that feels the most comfortable to you at the time, then, of course, listen to your body and go with it, but if it does not, then do move into a more comfortable position and your provider will need to adapt what they need to do accordingly. Again, if all is well with you and baby, there is no reason to be in a position that does not feel right for you; you are the one doing all the work!
Squatting for Birth
A supported squat sitting on a birth stool or other support can greatly help bring the baby down the birth canal and can be effective at helping you with pushing by working with gravity. However, a deep squatting position for giving birth can slightly increase the chance of a tear in your perineum that will require stitching, so it is worth bearing this in mind too. (still less likely to than semi-reclining, though!) It also decreases the rates of instrumental births (forceps or suction)
Kneeling for Birth
Kneeling for birth results in some of the best birth outcomes for both moms and babies, is easy to do, and is very safe. Kneeling while resting on a support can be one of the most effective birthing positions that allow your pelvis to open and move as it needs to make the most room for your baby to be born; it helps your contractions to work effectively, your baby to move with gravity and reduces the chance of a tear that needs stitches. Many women/birthing people find kneeling the most comfortable and effective position to birth when they have an unmedicated natural birth.
Birthing Support Tools
There are some useful products that can help maintain upright positions during labor and birth that you may find helpful. These include:
- A Birthing Stool– usually made from rigid plastic or wood, it supports a low sitting position/semi-squat.
- Birthing Bar– this is attached to a hospital bed and can help you balance in a squat while keeping you in an upright position.
- Birthing Ball-this is actually a rubber or PVC gym ball but can be useful in early labor
- Peanut Ball– this is a ‘peanut’ shaped gym ball (as above), useful for those that choose an epidural as it can be positioned between their knees as the side lay
- CUB Support– an inflatable medical-grade support that provides the comfort of a birth ball and the useful aspects of a birth stool without any of the disadvantages of both!
Discover the many benefits of an upright birthing position with the help of innovative modern birth support that promotes mobility and comfort for the best labor and birth experience. Visit us here to learn more about the Comfortable Upright Birth (CUB)!
Planning for successful natural childbirth involves learning about the options that can influence you and your baby’s safety, health, wellbeing, experience, and overall comfort level during childbirth. The advantages of equipping yourself with the knowledge and tools that will see you through pregnancy, labor, and birth include learning how to deal with the sensations of labor in the safest, easiest, and best way possible. If you are planning a natural delivery, upright positions are just one of the options that can reduce anxiety and pain while improving your experience of birth.
Every pregnancy and birth is unique, and you need to consider everything that will impact you and your baby from a health perspective. Work closely with your Midwives and Doctors to plan for a wonderful birth, as well as a healthy mom and baby. It is highly recommended that you seek licensed medical practitioners’ advice during pregnancy and planning your baby’s birth. No part of this article is intended as medical advice, and all options regarding giving birth should be discussed with your provider during pregnancy.