Find Your Comfort Zone: Labour Positions for Smooth Delivery

When it comes to labour, one size definitely doesn't fit all. Every mum-to-be is unique, and so is her birthing experience. Discovering the best positions for labour can make the journey a whole lot smoother and more comfortable.

What are the best positions for labour? What is the best position to give birth to avoid tearing? Should you keep moving during contractions? Learn more about supportive birth positions here.

Bringing a baby into the world is a remarkable journey, and no two experiences are exactly alike. One aspect that adds to the uniqueness of childbirth is the wide array of birth positions available to help you through the labour process. These positions are like tools in your toolbox, each designed to assist you in different ways during the incredible adventure of childbirth.

Whether you're curious about traditional positions or interested in exploring some less conventional ones, let's journey through the world of birthing positions to help you make informed choices for your labour experience. Let's dive in.

Birth Positions: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best positions for labour?

When it comes to labour, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to the best birth position because it largely depends on your comfort and how your labour is progressing. Some popular labour positions include squatting, kneeling, being on all fours, or using a birthing ball.

Upright positions can help gravity assist in the baby's descent, potentially speeding up labour. Lying on your side can provide rest in between contractions. Ultimately, the best position for labour is the one that feels right for you at that moment.

What is the best position to give birth to avoid tearing?

To reduce the risk of tearing during childbirth, some women find that giving birth in an upright position can be helpful. Squatting, hands-and-knees, or using a birthing stool may allow the baby's head to emerge more gradually, potentially reducing the chances of severe tearing.

However, it's essential to remember that tearing is not entirely preventable and depends on various factors, including the baby's position and your individual anatomy. Good perineal massage, warm compresses, and controlled pushing during the second stage of labour can also be useful in reducing the risk of tearing.

Is it better to sit up or lie down during labour?

Whether it's better to sit up or lay down during labour depends on your comfort and the stage of labour you're in.

In the early stages of labour, sitting up or staying upright can help gravity assist with the baby's descent, potentially speeding up the process. However, during active labor, some women may find lying down on their side or with their upper body elevated more comfortable.

The best position is the one that feels right for you and helps you manage the pain and discomfort effectively.

Should I keep moving during early labour?

Staying active during the early stages of labour can be beneficial for many women. Walking, swaying, or rocking on a birthing ball can help you cope with contractions and may even facilitate cervical dilation. Movement can also provide a distraction from the pain and help you stay relaxed.

However, listen to your body, and if you feel more comfortable resting or lying down, that's perfectly fine. The key is to find a balance between movement and rest that works for you.

Should you keep moving during contractions?

Moving during contractions is a personal choice. Some women prefer to sway, walk, or rock during contractions as it can provide a sense of rhythm and distraction from the pain. Others may find comfort in staying still, focusing on their breathing and relaxation techniques.

It's essential to do what feels right for you. Your body will guide you, and you should listen to your instincts during this intense process.

During the second stage of labour, a pregnant woman may want to consider various normal birth positions to help them during pushing as well as actual birthing. This is partially due to research findings that birth position may affect the perineal outcome.

There are a few positions women can opt for when doing a vaginal delivery. We hope that this article will be able to shed some light on the risks and benefits of your birthing options. That way, you can make the best choices for your birth plan and ease the pain of labour.

mum in labour Image Source: iStock

1. Squatting Birth Positions

Squatting is not only a great help during labour but is also one of the more popular and normal birth positions. This position allows gravity to help you when it comes to actual labour and delivery.

Why it's great:

  • Squatting speeds up dilation during labour.
  • It reduces the need for forceps or a vacuum delivery.
  • Squatting births can help reduce the length of labour.
  • Squatting can widen your pelvic opening by 20 to 30 per cent.

Why it might not be safe:

  • The baby’s position may not be right for squatting (breech or transverse).
  • Squats can be taxing on your body because they can strain the ankles, knees and hips.
  • It can lead to more tearing if done without a birthing stool or other aid.

2. Reclining Birth Positions

Find Your Comfort Zone: Labour Positions for Smooth Delivery Picture courtesy: YouTube

Labour and childbirth can be long and arduous, resulting in mums needing to take breaks in between. One of the birth positions that offer this is the reclining birth position because the mum-to-be can relax on the bed, and this labour position also helps ease the pain.

There are various ways to achieve this — you can lie down in bed, recline against a wall, a chair or another person. You can also enlist the help of your husband to keep your back supported while he gives back rubs between contractions. 

Why it's great:

  • This birth position can help reduce tension and relax the muscles.
  • It's a good alternative when the mum-to-be is tired but doesn’t want to lie down completely.

Why it might not be safe:

  • It may work against gravity, resulting in longer labour.
  • When on your back, your uterus might compress major blood vessels, potentially depriving the baby of oxygen and making you feel dizzy or queasy.
  • If your baby is in a posterior position, this will cause your labour to hurt more. 

3. Birthing Stool Positions

Find Your Comfort Zone: Labour Positions for Smooth Delivery Picture credit: Kaya Birth

A great tool to help mums try out different normal birth positions is a birthing stool. Women can squat on it, get in the all-fours position with it and use it to support their arms.

Mums can even rock back and forth with it depending on the stool's design. The best part about it is that you can even use it during a water birth. There are some birthing stool models that are suitable for water.

Why it's great:

  • It can help the baby to drop into the birth canal much faster.
  • Birthing stools help to relieve pressure on the back.
  • It can help to increase the dilation of the cervix.

Why it might not be safe:

  • Women may experience increased blood loss.
  • It may increase the rate and severity of perineal tears.

4. Birthing/Squat Bar Positions

Find Your Comfort Zone: Labour Positions for Smooth Delivery Picture credit: Triad Birth Doula

Like the birthing stool, a birthing bar is a tool that attaches to the bed to help support various birth positions. With a birthing bar, you can sit up at any time and squat, leaning on the bar for support.

Delivering mums can wrap a towel and use it as a rope to help when they are pushing. It can help give mums the resistance needed to push especially when they have been in labour for a very long time but are not making much progress.

Why it's great:

  • Offers resistance for mums to push
  • Can help shift the baby if needed
  • Uses gravity
  • Less painful and more productive contractions
  • Relieves backaches
  • More restful than standing

Why it might not be safe:

  • Women need to think ahead of time about how they want to approach this tool.
  • Increased tearing is possible if used in a squatting position and when pushing the wrong way.

5. Birth or Labour Positions With an Epidural

Epidural anaesthetics is one of the most commonly used anaesthesia during delivery. This epidural anaesthesia will numb the whole area between your breasts and knees. This will make you wonder how can you push the baby out with ease.

When the active phase of labour is drawing near, mums might experience the urge to push. This urge overwhelms a pregnant mum, and she may not have control over it because her body does it.

Meanwhile, at other times, it can simply mean pushing into the second stage of delivery, rather than not doing so.

For some women, an epidural might help dissipate or eliminate this urge to push in the second stage of labour. This explains the theory of labouring down or waiting to push until the baby is approximately far down into the pelvis.

This labouring down can allow mothers to rest, and expectedly avoid:

  • fetal distress
  • prolonged pushing
  • some wrong fetal positions or the baby will have ample time to rotate in the appropriate position
  • the mother can reduce the feeling of extreme exhaustion brought by pushing efforts

However, according to Very Well Family’s notes from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), they no longer recommended the concept of labouring down since 2019. They suggest that a pregnant mother should start pushing when her cervix is completely dilated.

epidural Image source: iStock

Pushing labour positions with an epidural

Because an epidural paralyses the mother, she could not assume any other positions because she could hardly feel anything because of numbness.

This may limit the pregnant mother’s attempt to try other labour positions possible, which can delay the process of giving birth. It may vary from one woman to another. Some mums may have more movements than others.

However, while we are talking about a mother’s labour position with an epidural, she might need surrounding company for support. With good support, there can be several positions a mother can use during her delivery or birth:

  • Kneeling at the foot of the bed, leaning over
  • semi-prone
  • semi-sitting with legs as support
  • side lying
  • supine lying with stirrups or legs as support
  • supported squat

Why it should be used with caution:

This labour position can ease the pain, obviously, the mother is numb. But remember, when helping a pregnant woman with an epidural needs caution in overextending her legs or other joints.

It could possibly cause harm and danger to the pregnant body because of the inability to feel pain, and could never tell when and whether to stop if her joints are overextended.


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6. Sitting Positions to Help Dilate Faster for Labour

There are many medical approaches to induce labour with ease and without pain, but a woman can help encourage her body to dilate faster by keeping it relaxed and loose. These sitting birth positions will help the cervix dilate during labour. 
Dilation is described as the widening of the cervical opening. The dilation of the cervix alarms a pregnant woman that she is going into labour.
During the last stages of pregnancy, doctors will perform cervical exams to track the progress of the pregnancy and measure the dilation of the cervical opening.
In the first stage of labour, the cervix will dilate at 10 centimetres wide. Dilation is commonly a gradual process, but the cervix can rapidly open and extend over 1 to 2 days.
There could be a few factors that can help encourage dilation to occur faster.

Sitting position using an exercise ball to ease pain

pregnant woman sitting on exercise ball - labour positions article Image Source: iStock

Using an inflatable, large exercise ball, called a birthing ball, can help in encouraging dilation.
Sitting on the ball position, rocking forward and backward, or moving in circles can help mothers keep their muscles during the labour in the pelvis relaxed and loose for the delivery to ease the pain.

7. Holding the Legs During Labour

It is a crucial position but it is possible. Always remember that the position of your body is important for pushing. We may notice that in the previous positions, the mother should be curved forward, and her head is down.
Curling forward and chin tucked in helps the baby move smoothly in the curves of the pelvis, and can induce labour and ease its pain.
In many other positions, like the position where the mother holds her legs during labour, notice that the mother needs to grasp her legs behind her knees. To do this, she must pull her legs back.
It is also effective that while doing this, her elbows are out as if you are rowing a boat. If others may help the mother, they must not push her legs back or apart. This labour position might also help you to ease pain during delivery.
Despite the various normal birth positions mums can choose, they are meant to help ease the delivery of your baby when opting for normal vaginal delivery.
Mums can always choose the method that they are most comfortable with after discussing options with their doctor. However, your baby's life and safety should always be the top priority whatever decision you make. If your baby is not in the optimal position for your planned delivery, be flexible and accept changes. There is no shame in delivering via caesarian section.
Updates from theAsianparent Philippines. 

Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it's important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn't serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.

Find Your Comfort Zone: Labour Positions for Smooth Delivery

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