Labor and delivery
There is no right or wrong, best or worst position to give birth. It depends on where you're comfortable and what's happening. Most women do well lying on their side during labor. Others may feel better walking around, taking a shower, and pacing the hospital's hallways. Listen to your body to find the position that works best for you and helps labor progress. Always remember that whatever position you're in there are options:
- On your back: While this is the most commonly used position because it allows your provider optimal space to apply delivery maneuvers, it may also cause your uterus to press against the inferior vena cava blood vessel, decreasing the placenta blood supply. For extra comfort and support, put a pillow under one side of your hips and tilt your abdomen slightly, or sit in a semi-reclining position with your head and shoulders elevated, legs on stirups and pull on the back of your legs.
- On Your Side: Takes pressure off your perineum and keeps the weight of your uterus off the blood vessel called the vena cava, maximizing blood flow to your uterus and your baby. Have your partner hold your upper leg to widen the pelvic outlet and support the weight of the baby.
- On your hands and knees: May ease back pains and give a poorly positioned baby a chance to turn around. May help a baby who appears to be stressed because it maximizes blood flow to the uterus and the placenta. This position can be difficult if you have an epidural, as you may not be able to move your legs well enough to support yourself.
- Sitting during early labor: Makes your uterus move forward, taking pressure off your diaphragm and improving the blood supply to the contracting muscles. Try a birthing chair or stool if there is one handy, or a birthing ball.
- Standing or walking during labor: Helps widen your pelvic opening and lets gravity do its job by pressing the baby's head against your cervix. Use a wall or ask to lean on your labor coach during contractions.
- Squatting during delivery: Opens your pelvis even wider so the baby has more room to move down into the birth canal. Use a bed with a squatting bar or two extra bodies to help support you and sustain this position.
- Kneeling during delivery: Lets you maintain an upright position without straining your back. Just kneel on a pillow, lean forward against your bed, a chair, or a wall, and rest your arms and upper body on or against the prop.
It’s important to realize that upright positions can be difficult if you have an epidural, because your legs may be too numb to support you or balance in an upright position.
It's important to breathe through each contraction and keep an open mind. If you have to be restricted to bed because of medical equipment, anesthesia or fetal monitoring, stay focused on your goal: your baby. And whether you're lying down or standing up, changing positions is key.
Review Date: 10/22/2008
Reviewed By: Peter J. Chen, MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.