There's no perfect position for labor. However, frequent changes of position during labor can help you relax and cope with the pain. By involving your labor partner, you might feel greater support, too. As your labor progresses, try various positions until you find one that helps you feel comfortable.
Slide show: Labor positions
Slide show: Labor positions
Pregnant woman kneeling with birthing ball
Standing or walking can help labor gain momentum, especially in the early stages. Lean on your partner for support during contractions — or wrap your arms around your partner's neck and start swaying, as though you were slow dancing. This is also a good position for a back rub.
During labor, rhythmic motions can be soothing. Gently rock while sitting on a sturdy chair, the edge of the bed or a birthing ball — a large rubber ball often used as a tool during unmedicated childbirth.
If you're seated in a chair, you might ask your support person to sit on the floor in front of you and lean back against your knees. If you're sitting all the way back in the chair, the pressure on your knees might help ease low back pain.
If your back hurts during labor, leaning forward might feel good. Straddle a chair or lean over a table or countertop. This is another good position for a back rub.
Lunging might help your baby rotate or descend. You might try leaning forward while standing up. Raise one foot on a sturdy chair. Gently lean toward the raised foot during the next contraction. If a chair is too high for comfort, use a footstool. You can lunge without accessories, too. Put one foot ahead of the other, then bend the forward knee and lean toward it.
Sitting with one foot up
Flexing and extending your legs might help your baby rotate or descend. An asymmetrical position can also offer variety. Try propping up one foot while you're sitting in a sturdy chair. You might want to lean toward the raised foot during each contraction. Support under your knee is helpful if you remain in this position for long.
Sometimes kneeling helps ease back pain. Kneeling while leaning forward can also help open your pelvis. Use a birthing ball or pile of pillows for support. In the hospital, raise the head of the bed. Kneel on the lower part of the bed while resting your arms and upper body on the top of the bed.
Squatting helps open your pelvis, giving your baby more room to rotate as he or she moves through the birth canal. Squatting also might allow you to bear down more effectively when it's time to push. Use a sturdy chair or squatting bar on the birthing bed for support. You can also squat against a wall or between your support person's legs while he or she sits in the chair.
Prop yourself up with pillows, or ask your partner to sit behind you for support. During each contraction, lean forward or draw your knees toward your body.
On hands and knees
Don't be embarrassed to get on your hands and knees during labor. Try it in bed or on a floor mat. You'll take the pressure off your spine, which might ease back pain and help rotate the baby into a better position for delivery. A hands-and-knees position may boost your baby's oxygen supply as well. To give your arms a break, lower your shoulders to the bed or floor mat and place your head on a pillow.
Lying on your side
To give yourself a rest and ease pain late in the first stage of labor, lie on your side. Place pillows between your knees for comfort. Lying on your left side maximizes blood flow to your uterus and baby. Lying on your side also helps support your baby's weight, which can ease some back pain.
Remember, there's no perfect position for labor. Try a variety of positions. Discuss your preferences with your health care provider ahead of time — but be flexible. You might need to experiment during labor to find the most effective positions.
Last Updated: 2013-02-06
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