11 labour positions you should try
From slow dancing to lunging, try experimenting with any of these labour positions to find what works for you.
Jennifer Elliott November 6, 2015
All too often our image of labour is of a woman in bed. Here are some better ideas from duala and childbirth educator Jennifer Elliott.
Different positions in labour can make you a little more comfortable, encourage your baby to move into a better position for birth and even help your labour to progress. Experiment with different positions, as you move through labour, to find the ones where your body feels and works the best.
1. Try being upright
One of your biggest allies is gravity. When you are upright—standing, sitting or kneeling—the weight of your baby presses on the cervix, encouraging it to open. An upright position may also help get your baby into the best position for birth.
The one position a labouring woman should not adopt is lying flat on her back, because the weight of the baby puts pressure on a major artery, restricting blood flow to the baby. Prevent this by putting a small pillow or wedge under one side of your back so you’re lying slightly to the side.
2. Lying down on your side
Your partner can rub your back to help you relax. You may even drift off to sleep, at least between contractions. Rest until you need to be up to meet the intensity.
Also try: rocking in a chair or glider.
3. Standing and leaning forward
Some women lean into a wall. Others choose a desk, or place an exercise ball on a kitchen counter or other high surface. Bend your knees. If using a ball, lean your head, arms and upper chest into the ball. Rock from side to side during the contraction. Between contractions, walk to encourage your labour to progress.
4. Kneeling with knees wide apart, and leaning forward
Sit back on your ankles and let your belly sink down between your knees. Stack up a bunch of pillows so you can lean your chest and head into them.
5. Slow dancing
Put your arms around his neck, and lean your head into his chest or shoulder. Your partner puts his arms around your lower back and locks his fingers so that you feel secure. You may find it even more comfortable to drop your arms over his so they dangle limply. Rock from side to side together. Add slow dance music if desired.
6. Sitting on the ball
This allows you to take the weight off your legs and relax your lower back. You can rock side to side, forward and back, or all the way round. Your partner may sit behind you so that you can lean back into him between contractions, or you may want to lean forward against a bed or other furniture.
Also try: sitting cross-legged, on bed or floor.
7. On knees with upper body leaning forward
Lean against the raised back of the hospital bed, over the ball placed on a couch, or against your partner while he stands at the side of the bed.
Back labour means the woman feels intense discomfort in her lower back during labour. It is usually caused by the posterior position of the baby — head down but with the back of the head pressing against the mom’s tailbone instead of facing the front of her body. Relief comes when the baby rotates, and rotation is encouraged by the mom leaning forward. She may also encourage the baby to turn by opening her hips.
8. On knees leaning over ball, or on hands and knees
An exercise ball allows you to put the weight of your upper body on the ball instead of your hands. The ball also encourages movement, rocking forward into cat stretches or side to side. You can also do these same movements on your hands and knees. These movements open the pelvis to allow the baby to rotate into an anterior position.
Also try: sitting backwards on a chair or toilet seat, leaning into a pillow.
9. The Double Hip Squeeze
Your partner presses into your buttocks with the palms of his hands. His fingers point to your spine while his elbows point out as he places his palms on the gluteal muscles (the “meatiest” part of the buttocks) and presses toward your spine during contractions. Aaah!
Also try: direct pressure, hot or cold compresses.
10. Side lying with upper knee bent
It’s OK to lie down in labour. Lie down on one side, with your lower leg straight, and bend your upper knee as much as possible. Rest it on a pillow. This is another position to open your pelvis and encourage your baby to rotate and descend. It’s a nice resting position for anyone, not just those experiencing back labour.
11. Lunge Stand facing forward with one foot on a stool or chair. Rotate your standing foot to the side to open your knee. Lunge during or between contractions, or both. Try one foot up, then the other, and stick with the one that gives the most relief. This position often works wonders late in labour when dilation has slowed. It makes space for the baby to get into a good position for the final descent.