What Is the Ideal Position for a Laboring Woman?

During labor, most women will switch positions frequently if left to their own devices. They may go from walking to standing, kneeling, squatting, or on all fours. But which position is most conducive to the second stage of labor when the baby is being born?

Most experts agree that lying on your back as practiced in most hospitals is not a good birthing position. And that makes sense because you’re trying to work against gravity. Interestingly, we advise women not to sleep on their backs during pregnancy, but that advice is ignored during birth. 

Let the Woman Decide

Ideally, the laboring woman should be able to decide how she wants to push. When left alone, few women will lie on their back. Unfortunately, the back position or semi-sitting position are the only way for your provider to see what’s going on. But is that really a reason to encourage it?

The evidence doesn’t seem to support that particular birthing position. Lying on your back doesn’t allow for the optimal widening of the pelvis, resulting in babies who “get stuck” in the birth canal. It also requires the woman to push her baby out against gravity. Unless there is a problem with either the mother or the baby, the laboring woman should be able to decide when and how to push. 

Good Labor Positions

These are some suitable positions for labor and childbirth:

  • Hands-and-knee positions
  • Side-lying positions
  • Upright positions
  • Sitting positions
  • Squatting

Birthing on your hands and knees is more effective than lying on your back, no questions asked. Laboring in this position may be beneficial for back labor and even turning a posterior baby. It’s also an excellent position for birthing a very large baby.



pregnant woman

The side-lying positions are helpful when the mother needs rest during a long labor. It likely won’t help speed things up like an upright position that uses gravity to help. That being said, you can give birth in a side lying position without stressing the perineum.

Upright positions are often best during early and active labor. Of course, during active labor, the laboring woman will probably need something to hold on to, such as her partner.
Sitting positions are another option for you. If you feel the need to urinate a lot, you could decide to just stay on the toilet for a while. This may prevent you from having to make constant trips to the bathroom.

You can also choose to sit in a rocking chair during labor. Finally, a squatting position is another way to give birth by allowing your pelvis to widen maximally. You will probably need some assistance in order to squat. This could be your partner or a squat bar.

Follow Your Instincts

With labor positions, follow your instincts. As long as you haven’t received an epidural, you will be perfectly capable of moving around during labor. Of course, you may need some help, especially getting in and out of a squat. Upright positions are best for your baby, but you may feel the need to rest and lie down instead. That’s perfectly fine. If labor is progressing slowly, you can always switch positions.

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