Birthing Positions: Is There a ‘Best Way’ To Give Birth?
Including positions for giving birth in your labor plans
Most women experience labor as a time of intense sensations, or pain, prior to the actual birth of their baby. For this reason it is important to prepare for labor by learning some effective techniques to help cope during childbirth. This includes creating a birth plan or birth preferences document. A written plan can help to work through the things that matter most to you and help to prepare you mentally and emotionally for giving birth.
Some facilities, particularly in the USA, may offer personalized health, fitness, and wellness plans. This can include classes that teach methods on how to relax during labor or different positions for giving birth. Some offer birth partner classes or sessions on breastfeeding and learning to look after your new-born. If your provider offers this resource we would encourage you to access them.
Below we have gathered information on the most common, beneficial and practical positions that can be used during labor. Upright positions during labor have been shown to result in less assisted deliveries, more space and less emergency C. sections. With this in mind it is beneficial to learn more about upright positions and movement in labor.
Upright Labor Positions: How to manage labor with movement
During active labor, when contractions are most frequent, 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. Movement not only eases pain but, as research has shown, it helps to make labor shorter. What is most important though, is that you listen to your body and move as as you want. This includes into any position that feels right for you at the time. Don’t exhaust yourself trying lots of positions; 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. This can benefit your physical and mental health and can help your baby get into a great position birth. Walking and remaining active can really help in early labor to make contractions less painful. It can also help by encouraging the baby to move into and through your pelvis.
Climbing The Stairs
Slow-paced stairs climbing can 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, helping the baby to be in the ideal position for 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 early labor as it allows you to rest but keeps you upright. Sitting upright can help baby move into a great position for birth using gravity move down through your pelvis. However remember to keep moving during contractions.
Squatting is a great position for some people. You will need to practice this position before labor or use a support tool, like the CUB. It can be difficult to stay balanced in this position if you are not a super fit yoga bod. The main advantage of squatting is that it can open the joints of the pelvis. This can give 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: AKA ‘All Fours’
This is when you kneel forward on both knees and support your upper body with your hands and arms. This position feels extra comfortable, especially if you have back pain during labor. It allows you to remain mobile and able to freely move your hips encouraging contractions to work effectively. This makes it easier for your baby to move down the birth canal. However, arms, wrists and knees are likely to get tired and possibly sore if you remain in this position. You can help to prevent this by moving between contractions, or resting on a support like the CUB.
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. This can help the baby move through the pelvis. Changing sides regularly 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 change 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
This position 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:
- 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!
- A Birthing Stool– usually made from rigid plastic or wood, it supports a low sitting position/semi-squat. Useful for short periods.
- Birthing Bar– attached to a hospital bed to 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– a ‘peanut’ shaped gym ball (as above). Useful if an epidural is in place when positioned between or under the knees.
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. We strongly recommended that you seek licensed medical practitioners’ advice during pregnancy and planning your baby’s birth. No part of this article is intended as, or should be taken as medical advice.