9 Popular Birthing Positions for Reduced Pain and Labor


During all stages of labor, different birthing positions are highly recommended to ease pain and discomfort. One birthing position may work at one time and another at a different point during your labor. Practicing and learning several birth positions before you go into labor is highly recommended.

If this is your first pregnancy and you have not researched much about laboring and birthing, you may believe you will give birth in a bed, on your back. Another term for this position is lithotomy. This is a huge misconception. This is what many people see in the movies and on television. Sometimes, depending on your provider, they may require you to stay in bed due to many reasons, such as if you have an epidural or any other risks they may be concerned about.

Overall, women feel less pain and discomfort if they are off their back and moving around during labor. There are several reasons NOT to be in labor or give birth on your back which include:

Different birthing positions
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  1. When you push on your back, with your feet in stirrups, you are pushing “uphill”. You want to use the benefit of gravity to push that baby out.
  2. When you push on your back, this may increase your chances of more interventions such as forceps, vacuum, episiotomy, or tearing. Which ties into why you should use gravity to your advantage.
  3. Laboring on your back is more.
  4. When you labor on your back it may stall the birthing and laboring process, which may lead to more interventions.
  5. When you lie on your back, it can constrict blood vessels to you and the baby. This causes less blood and oxygen to get to you and the baby. While birthing and pushing, you need as much blood and oxygen as possible!
  6. When you are lying on your back, you may feel you do not have control over the situation and need to listen to your provider, not your body.

Fortunately, there are several different birthing positions you can try to help ease pain and discomfort. Not only do different birthing positions ease discomfort but some positions may speed up your labor including:

1. Standing and Walking

This is a common birthing position, especially during early labor. When you stand and/or walk during labor, the force of gravity is your friend. Gravity allows your pelvis to open up, for your baby to position and to move down the birth canal. Women feel they have more control over the situation when they are able to walk around. They can also stop to lean against a wall.

[Read more about Early Labor]

2. Birthing Bar

Pregnant woman sitting on birthing bar with a doula
Source: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu

A birthing bar is common in hospital settings and can be added to your bed when it comes time to push. This bar allows you to sit in the squatting position. Sitting in this position allows your pelvis to open up.

3. Rocking

Rocking is a great discomfort reliever and also uses gravity to your benefit because you are still standing. A classic image you may see is a woman with their arms around their doula and/or partner swaying back and forth. Listen to some light, comforting music and sway back and forth as a relaxation technique. Rocking allows your pelvis to move.

4. Squatting

This position is commonly used in the late labor stages. When you squat, this allows your pelvis to open up widely allowing room for your baby to move down. If you are hooked up to any monitoring equipment during labor, there are still ways you can use this birthing position.

5. Birthing Balls

Pregnant woman lying on birthingball with nurse at home
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Birthing balls are not just great big toys; they are amazing to use when in labor. Birthing balls are great if you are too tired to stand and sway. Leaning on it or sitting on it is a great way to open your pelvis up also. Make sure you have someone spotting you, so you do not roll off.

6. Kneeling Over a Chair

During labor, it is very common to experience back pain, or back labor. You usually experience this when the baby is pushing its head against your spine. Using this birth position encourages and allows your baby’s head to move forward and take that pressure and discomfort off your back.

[Read more about Back Labor]

7. Sitting Backwards

It is also common to sit backwards, straddling a chair with a pillow between your belly and the chair. This is another great way to relieve any back pain or discomfort during labor. These also allow your doula and/or partner a great way to massage.

8. Hands and Knees

Getting on all fours, on your hands and knees is another great birthing position to use gravity to your advantage. It is also very common for women to deliver in this position too!

9. Side-lying

Pregnant woman giving birth at side lying position
Source: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu

If you have received an epidural and are not progressing in labor on your back, side-lying, preferably on your left-hand side, gives you another option. This position does not compress any major veins, so you and your baby are getting enough oxygen and blood flow. This is also a great position for delivering.

It is important for you and your spouse to look over all these positions, so when you go into labor, you know which ones to try. Some nurses may be able to suggest certain positions while you are in labor. Listen to your body and let it guide you. Hiring a doula may be a great option, also. A doula will meet with you before you go into labor to discuss and practice all these and more birthing positions with you. Doulas are very experienced and familiar with what birthing positions to try during different scenarios in labor.

As always, ask questions and be familiar with what your provider is going to be open to you trying, while in labor. Make sure that your provider is okay with you moving and walking around during labor. Some providers may be against this, so you will want to know your options now and make the necessary changes if needed.


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