17 Best Positions During Labor To Ease The Pain

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Most women deliver their babies in the traditional sleeping position. However, that’s not the only recommended position. If you want to explore the best positions during labor, your doctor or midwife may be able to help you.

Many women find it comfortable to change their position and keep moving during labor to ease the pain. Experimenting with different positions may help you find the best one to ease discomfort, help you be in control, and reduce the duration of labor.

Read this post to discover some of the best positions you can try during the first and second stages of labor, their benefits, and their drawbacks.

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.

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

The hands and knees position, best positions during labor

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.

2.  The birthing ball position

The birthing ball position, best positions during labor

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.

3. The side-lying position

The side-lying position, best positions during labor

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.

4. The sitting position

The sitting position, best positions during labor

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.

5. The squatting position

The squatting position, best positions during labor

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.

6. The upright position

The upright position, best positions during labor

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.

7. The stair-climbing position

The stair-climbing position, best positions during labor

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.

8. The lunging position

The lunging position, best positions during labor

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.

9. Abdominal lift

The abdominal lift position, best positions during labor

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

Drawbacks

  • Needs your partner’s support.

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

The semi-reclining position, best positions during labor

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.

11. The birthing bar

Best positions during labor with the use of the 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.

12. The kneeling birth position

The kneeling birth position, best positions during labor

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.

13. The birthing stool

Best positions during labor with the help of a 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.

14. The semi-sitting position

The semi sitting position, best positions during labor

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.

15. Laboring in a tub

Laboring in a tub, best positions during labor

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.

16. Use of rebozo

Best positions during labor with the use of 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.
  • Discuss with your gynecologist about having a breech vaginal delivery as it can be associated with difficulties, and has the risk of the head getting stuck.

17. Lithotomy position

The lithotomy position, best positions during labor

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.

While labor isn’t pleasant, finding a comfortable posture can help you relax and exert the right pressure to shorten the time it takes. During labor, your nurse, midwife, or doctor can suggest various positions for you to try. However, knowing some of these positions beforehand may help you feel more confident and prepared during your labor. Also, you can practice some of these best positions for labor to get the hang of them.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Labor Positions & Movement.
    https://www.lamaze.org/labor-positions
  2. Positions for labour and birth.
    https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/positions-for-labour-and-birth
  3. Effective Pushing Techniques for Labor.
    http://www.parentresourcenetwork.org/node1/?p=157
  4. Birthing Positions.
    https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/birthing-positions
  5. C Smith et al.; (1999); Knee-chest postural management for breech at term: a randomized controlled trial.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10687569/

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Dr. Shweta Goswami

(MS)
Dr. Shweta Goswami is a senior IVF consultant at Cloudnine Hospital, Noida. With 12 years of experience, she specializes in IVF, surrogacy, hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, male infertility, sexual dysfunction, among others.  Dr. Gowsimi did her MBBS from Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, and her training in Obstetrics and Gynecology from Safdarjung Hospital. Her postdoctoral fellowship is in infertility. She has... more

shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health and pharma, especially related to... more

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