Choosing the right birth positions can both reduce labor pain and the time it takes to give birth. Unfortunately most women still end up lying on their back for giving birth. That’s about the worst position possible for the woman and was implemented way back with the purpose of making sure that the doctor/midwife had a good view of the birthing. Ugh!
In this article, we’ll walk you through which positions might be helpful during different stages of labor and why.
Birth Positions Stage By Stage
Why care about the birthing position?
There are many reasons why you would want to care about what type of birth position you’re using.
By simply changing positions and moving your body around while you’re in labor, will help make the entire process a bit easier. You can help reduce pain and give increased comfort as well as get a better sense of control over the situation. This also helps with how often and how long the contractions are as well as how effective each contraction is. You will also ensure that your baby is getting a steady supply of oxygen.
Different positions can help you use gravity to get the baby to move into the birth canal faster so this can reduce your time in labor.
Positions during the first stage of labor
The first stage of labor is the dilation. This can go on for many hours and be very painful. Finding ways to relax and help moving the process forward are key. Since the stage can go on for may hours, variating your positions is important too, to be as comfortable as possible.
Many women that are in the first stage of labor prefer to lie on their side. You can even place pillows between your knees for extra comfort. This helps to alleviate some of the pain from the contractions.
Some women opt for a semi-sitting position. You can do this on a couch or even in a bed as well as with your partner because you can lean against your partner with his arms around you. If you want to help enlarge the pelvis to help the baby get the best position possible, then you may want to sit with one foot up. You partner can help by massaging your back to help relieve some of the pain from back labor.
The key during this often long stage of labor (from the first contraction until fully dilated) is to focus on helping yourself to relax as much as possible.
In the very beginning, before the contractions have become really painful, it can be good to try to simply ignore them. Try walking around a bit, read a book, have something to eat, or do whatever that helps you feel normal.
As contractions become stronger and you can’t ignore them anymore, find birth positions that help you relax and focus on breathing. Personally, I’ve preferred standing on my knees leaning towards a couch or an alleviated part of the bed. If also placing a really large pillow or something similar in front of you, you can then simply fall back almost sitting on your feet and rest your head and body on a pillow when contractions get really bad. All to help you relax.
Lying on your side can also be comfortable when contractions are strong. Lying flat on your back is usually not very comfortable, in such case, sit up in a reclining position instead.
In addition to varying your positions, I strongly recommend learning relaxation techniques and that your birth partner learns massage techniques to help you out. Check out this online prenatal prep course targeting the pregnant mom and her birth partner. Me and my husband attended a similar class when I was pregnant and it was amazing how much he could be help me during labor!
Positions during the second stage of labor
When you get into the second stage of labor that means the baby is ready to come and you are about to push. One of the most common positions for this part of labor would be to lay on your back with the pelvic outlet open as much as possible. This allows the doctor to get where he or she needs, but that is where the benefits of this position end. Lying on your back to push, means that you push the baby upwards; not very efficient!
Pretty much any other position will be better for you. Relaxation and help from gravity are extremely important now to get your baby out fast and minimal tearing of your tissue.
You may want to try semi-sitting. This is where you can put pillows underneath your back, arms and knees. When you are in the middle of a contraction, you can put your hands around your knees using this position to pull up like you’re squatting. If you have problems with high blood pressure then your doctor may require you to lie on your side during labor as this helps to lower your blood pressure and make things more comfortable for you.
Side-lying as well as using a birthing stool are other good, relaxing positions while pushing. If you can stand on your hands and knees, or only on your knees during this stage, these positions are also great for gravity. But if you can’t relax, try another position.
Talk to your doctor about your options for birthing positions and try each position to see which one you feel most comfortable with. Only keep in mind that when your actually are in labor, these positions may feel different so go with what feels best for you once you’re giving birth.
Now over to you! What birth positions do you prefer?