17 Best Positions For Labor To Ease The Pain

focus during labor

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Positions during the first stage of labor

Positions during the second stage of labor

Traditionally, women had been made to deliver their babies in a sleeping position. But that’s not the case anymore.

Experts have come up with various positions for women to reduce the pain and duration of labor. So, what are the best labor positions? Which one should you choose and why?

MomJunction tells you about the positions you can try in the first and second stages of labor.

Best Positions To Try During Labor

As you enter active labor, the contractions become strong and painful. During this time, you may not be in a position to take a decision on the labor position. Therefore, ask your doctor or caregiver to suggest some good positions to ease the birthing process.

[ Read: How To Induce Labor ]

Positions During The First Stage Of Labor

Here are some of the labor positions you can try (1) (2):

1. The hands and knees position:

Hands and knees position

It is one of the best positions to help open the pelvis and move the baby into an optimal position. You need to bend and support yourself on the knees and hands.

Benefits:

  • Helps ease back pain by taking off the pressure from the back. Boosts the oxygen supply to babies.
  • Allows for rocking the hips.
  • Convenient for the partner to give a back massage, counter pressure, and apply a cold and warm compress.

Drawbacks:

  • Arms may ache.

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2.  The birthing ball position:

Birthing ball position

A birthing ball enables you to rock or sit on it, lean over it, or support the upper body while kneeling and squatting. It is helpful in hip movements during contractions.

Benefits:

  • Provides excellent support.
  • Eases back pain.
  • Encourages cervical dilation and helps the baby engage into the pelvis.

Drawbacks:

Difficult to maintain balance; you may need somebody’s help.

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3. The side-lying position:

Side lying position

Lie on your side, and keep a pillow in between your knees. This labor position helps the baby rotate and engage into the pelvis. It makes you rest during labor and minimizes the muscular efforts.

Benefits:

  • Helps supply oxygen to the baby.
  • Ideal position to try in case of high blood pressure.
  • Offers relaxation during contractions.
  • Can relieve hemorrhoid pain.
  • Lowers the chances of episiotomy.
  • Slows down a birth that is moving too fast.

Drawbacks:

  • Assessment of fetal heartbeat becomes difficult in this position.

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[ Read: How To Push During Delivery ]

4. The sitting position:

Sitting position

When you feel the baby has dropped down deeper into the pelvis then sitting on a birthing chair or in the toilet can help relieve the pressure on the pelvis. Keep the knees lower than the hips and sway front and back or sideways.

As this position helps you relax during contractions, the force of gravity works on the labor.

Benefits:

  • Relaxing.
  • Convenient to use a fetal heartbeat monitoring machine.
  • Mitigates the tearing of the perineum.
  • Allows your partner to offer back massage, counter pressure, and warm and cold compresses.

Drawbacks:

  • Can be uncomfortable while sitting on a hard toilet seat.
  • Not ideal for women with high blood pressure.

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5. The squatting position:

Squatting position

It can be done with the support of your partner, or a chair against the wall. Squat with your feet flat, and hold your partner or something sturdy for support.

Benefits:

  • Helps to open up the pelvis by 2cm.
  • Allows you to shift your weight for comfort.
  • Helps the baby move into an optimal position as gravity encourages movement.

Drawbacks:

  • Can be tiring.

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6. The upright position:

Upright position

An upright position combined with the force of gravity is advantageous.  It helps the baby drop deeper into the pelvis and prevents the pelvic pressure from concentrating in a certain area. Some upright positions include:

  • Walking
  • Swaying (leaning on a person)/ slow dancing
  • Standing
  • Rocking while sitting on a chair or the edge of a bed or a birthing ball

Benefits:

  • Helps relieve backache.
  • Aligns the baby in the right position.
  • Speeds up labor.
  • Less painful contractions.
  • The hip movement in slow dancing can increase the comfort.

Drawbacks:

  • Walking is not ideal if you have high blood pressure.
  • Monitoring fetal heartbeat is difficult in positions like walking or swaying.

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[ Read: How To Get Releif Of Back Labor ]

7. The stair-climbing position:

Stair climbing position

Climbing the stair during labor encourages the baby to move to the right birthing position. This asymmetric position offers enough room for the baby to move. But you need to hold to the railing and be careful.

Benefits:

  • Helps open the cervix.

Drawbacks:

  • Can be tiresome and risky.

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8. The lunging position:

Lunging position

In this position you need to raise one of your feet and keep it on a chair. It helps in getting the baby to an ideal position and encourages labor. You can also do kneeling lunges if it is comfortable.

Benefits:

  • Helps rotate the baby and makes the descent easier.
  • Opens up the mid pelvis.
  • Relieves back pressure.
  • Helps when the labor stops in between.

Drawbacks:

  • Needs support from the partner to keep balance.

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9. Abdominal lift:

Abdominal lift

Hold your abdomen with both the hands from below and slowly move it up and down. Do it from the beginning to the end of the contraction. It helps in descending the baby into the pelvis.

Benefits:

  • Helps alleviate back and groin pain.

Drawbacks:

  • Needs your partner’s support.

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[ Read: Ways To Relieve Pain During Labor ]

Positions During The Second Stage Of Labor

As the second stage is associated with pushing, you can try these positions to lessen the discomfort (3) (4).

10. The semi-reclining position:

Semi reclining position

You can recline against a wall, chair, partner or a bed while the baby descends through the birthing canal. Keep your knees bent and spread with the foot flat on the ground. If you are taking the help of your partner, then recline against him at a 70-degree angle, positioning yourself on your back and not the rectum.

Benefits:

  • Helps release the tension on pelvic muscles.
  • Good for women who feel tired and do not want to lie down.

Drawbacks:

  • This position may work against the forces of gravity.
  • Not recommended during back labor.

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11. The birthing bar:

Birthing bar

Labor beds with birthing bars can be of great support during the pushing stage. You can squat and lean over a birthing bar for support. The upper of the bed can be raised to lean back and relax in between the contractions.

If you are too short or cannot position yourself comfortably on the bar in a squatting position due to epidural effect, then rest your feet on the vertical support of the bar. Loop a towel on the horizontal bar and when you are having contractions, push with the grip of your feet on the vertical bar and holding the towel for support.

Benefits:

  • Helps widen the pelvis.
  • Works with the gravity forces to push the baby down.

Drawbacks:

  • These attachments may not be available in all the hospitals.

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12. The kneeling birth position:

Kneeling birth position

Lean over the head of the bed or a birthing ball and support yourself over the knees. During contraction, lower your buttocks and flex the hips to push.

Benefits:

  • Contractions are less painful.
  • Relieves a backache.
  • Offers good rest.

Drawbacks:

  • Continuous monitoring of fetal heartbeat becomes difficult.
  • Arms may get tired.

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[ Read: What Is Baby Birth Crowning ]

13. The birthing stool:

Birthing stool

This position is similar to that you use in the toilet. It helps to angle your legs, thereby widening the pelvis to help the baby descend. A low-height stool is generally used for the position.

Benefits:

  • Works with gravity to promote the downward movement of the baby.
  • Relieves stress on the back.

Drawbacks:

  • Needs support from your partner or doula.

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14. The semi-sitting position:

Semi sitting position

It is the most common position used during childbirth. It is also the most convenient position a woman can try during the pushing stages. Sit slightly tilted to the left by placing a pillow under your right hip. Lean forward with your knees held backward and the legs supported by the labor assistants and your partner.

Benefits:

  • Helps open up the pelvis effectively.
  • Allows proper blood flow.
  • Gives good visibility to the doctor.
  • Fetal heart rate can be easily monitored.

Drawbacks:

  • Needs people to support you while trying this position.

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15. Laboring in a tub:

Laboring in a tub

Getting into a bathtub of warm water helps you relax during labor, and eases the pain. Support your back against the tub and spread your legs wide open. Push during each contraction to promote the downward movement of the baby. You can also use a birthing ball to lean over.

Benefits:

  • Speeds up labor.
  • Best to try when the contractions get closer.
  • Gives a break from pain during slow labor.

Drawbacks:

  • Needs assistance from the doula.

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16. Use of rebozo:

Rebozo

Rebozo helps turn the breech babies during labor (5). Position yourself on the knees and hands with your partner holding a rebozo around your belly from behind. The rebozo needs to be gently moved from side to side to help rotate the baby.

Benefits:

  • Helps relieve back pressure and uterine ligament tension.
  • Convenient for having a back massage.

Drawbacks:

  • Needs the partner’s help to wrap the rebozo around the belly.

[ Read: Black Cohosh To Induce Labor ]

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17. Lithotomy position:

Lithotomy position

In this position, you need to lie flat on your back with the feet up supported on stirrups.

Benefits:

  • Helps the doctor to check your perineum and abdomen.
  • Easy to check fetal heart rate.
  • Makes assisted delivery using forceps or vacuum extractor easier.

Drawbacks:

  • Can reduce the diameter of the pelvic opening.
  • The contractions can become irregular.
  • The elevated legs can make the contractions lift your hips upward, which may push your baby inside.
  • Higher chances of episiotomy.
  • Lower blood pressure and less supply of oxygen to the baby.

You can’t get right with the birthing positions when you are actually having your labor. Therefore, you need to practice them in advance in consultation with your doctor. Once you enter the third trimester, seek professional help and get trained in the positions. This helps you know which one is best for you, and how to do it. And do not forget to involve your partner in the training process, because he too needs to play his role right!

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Do you have a birthing experience to share? Let us know in the comment section below.

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shreeja pillai

Postgraduate in Chemistry and content writer. She has worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company and also holds a diploma in pharmaceutical regulatory affairs. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. She is a writer for MomJunction and aims at providing informative articles based on health and wellness. Apart from writing, she takes a great interest in music and traveling.
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