10 birthing positions

Birthing stool

A birthing stool keeps you upright while you’re pushing. The low height of a birthing stool helps ex your legs and expand the size of your pelvis, while the upright position of your body allows gravity to help baby move downwards. At the same time, a birthing stool allows your partner to provide support, either seated behind you or kneeling in front of you to help you maintain a comfortable position.



Although standing helps gravity speed things up and has been shown to reduce labour pain, it can be tiring. It helps realign your pelvis and lengthen your body, which in turn helps baby line up with the angle of your pelvis. Walking, rocking from side to side, or rolling your hips can help baby move into the birth canal.


Hands and knees

Similar to the position you would assume if you were washing the floor, keep your arms vertically below your shoulders, not too wide, and allow your body to rest on your arms. The hands and knees or all-fours position works well with the aid of a birthing ball. Arching your back from time to time can help reduce back pain, or try resting your upper body on a chair or birthing ball, while a cushion or pad beneath your knees can help you stay comfortable. During the final stages of labour, you may need to widen your knees in order to open up your pelvis.



One of the most common birth positions, lithotomy means lying at on your back or on a slight incline, sometimes with your legs in stirrups. While lithotomy is one of the few positions you can adopt if you have an epidural, it’s arguably not the best position for labour as it forces mum-to-be to push against gravity, it increases the pressure on the perineum often resulting in tearing or an episiotomy, and it places pressure on blood vessels leading to the uterus, limiting blood flow to your baby.



Especially helpful if you’re trying to avoid the lithotomy position, side-lying in the foetal position takes the pressure off your internal organs and blood ow to your baby, and can be used if you have had an epidural. Have your birth partner support your upper leg or use a partially de ated beach ball or large pillow between your legs to help support your upper leg. Side-lying is a good delivery position, and can help slow down a too-fast birth. Avoid using this position in the early stages of labour as it could slow down your labour.



Probably the best birth position for the second stage of labour, it does take some strength to maintain this position and it can be quite tiring. Hold onto a chair or onto your birthing partner, or squat against a wall to help you stay upright. Squatting opens up your pelvis by as much as 30% more than lying down. It also helps straighten the birth canal, allowing the pelvic bones to line up. Keep your weight on the back of your heels to allow the muscles in your perineum and vagina to relax and avoid tearing.



Often used in conjunction with the hands and knees position, kneeling means to rest on your shins while your body remains upright. Swaying, rocking, or circling your hips and tilting your pelvis in this position can help relieve labour pain and guide baby into a better position. Leaning forward in this position helps reduce back pain during labour, and less pressure on your perineum means fewer tears and less chance of an episiotomy.


Birthing ball

Using a birthing ball allows you to adopt different upright positions during the rst stage of labour, while helping ease the pain of contractions. Sitting astride the ball, try rocking your pelvis from side to side or back and forth. Lean on your birthing ball from a kneeling position, or get into a hands and knees position and hug your birthing ball while lifting your bottom up.


Birthing bar

Use this attachment that can be added to most labour beds to help you get into a squatting position. When using a birthing bar, drop the foot of the bed and raise the head of the bed to allow gravity to help.



Sitting upright on a chair, on the toilet, or on a birthing ball or birthing stool, either facing forwards or backwards, helps open up your pelvis while allowing gravity to assist baby move downwards. Facing the back of the chair you are sitting on and leaning slightly forward can help relieve labour back pain, while rocking in this position helps baby move into a better birthing position. It’s also an ideal position if baby’s head is pushing against your spine as it encourages baby to move forward.


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