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Birth Positions and Labour Positions

If there's one thing you take home from this birth positions article, it should be the firm resolve not to take birth lying down!

Choosing the best birth positions for your body and your baby can make labour faster, (or slower if things are going too fast!), easier, less painful, and will help you avoid unnecessary interventions and complications. Knowing and using different labour positions can give you a sense of control and help you not to feel completely overwhelmed. If you want to have a natural birth you should at least know what your options are, and the implications of each of those options, so that you can choose the best birth positions for you and your baby, which may not necessarily be the most convenient for you caregivers.

On the next few pages you will find a collection of possible birth positions, with illustrations, a description, some helpful tips and a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each birth position. I haven't had a chance to try all of these, but I'm looking forward to trying them with the birth of my second! If you have had particularly good or bad experiences with any of these positions, and you don't mind me quoting you on the site, please contact me and tell me your story!

Squatting ... will strengthen your pelvic floor so you can get your groove back after pregnancy sooner than you would have otherwise

One thing I would recommend is that you practice these birth positions while you are pregnant so that they become comfortable and familiar. This especially refers to squatting, and the exercise you put in with this one will definitely be worth it. One big benefit is that it will strengthen your pelvic floor so you can get your groove back after pregnancy sooner than you would have otherwise. Even if you don't end up using it during labour, your man will thank you! (Donations from grateful hubbies more than welcome.)

When I got there what did they make me do? Lie down! What position do they tell you not to sleep in while you're pregnant? Flat on your back!

With my daughter I went into labour at about 12:30 at night. I had a contraction, breathed through it and went back to sleep. I'm not sure how many I had that night but at about 6:30 I woke up from another contraction, went to the bathroom and had a 'show' and woke my hubby up to take us to the hospital as my contractions were getting quite close – about every 5-10 minutes. When I got there what did they make me do? Lie down! What position do they tell you not to sleep in while you're pregnant? Flat on your back!

The Birth Machine

Apparently it's quite common that women will be in active labour, but as soon as they get to the hospital labour slows down or grinds to a halt. This is generally no fault of hers, but because it's an unfamiliar environment, and perhaps worst of all, the first thing they tell you to do is lie down so that they can wire you up to all the machines and women just assume that's where you stay. This stalling in labour often causes caregivers to recommend augmentation, which means giving medication to speed up labour, but that's a whole other story on its own! Fortunately I knew my stuff and I asked if I could walk around as soon as I could. In reference to the picture on the right, this is what generally goes by the name of natural birth. Now imagine how many wires there would be if I had an epidural, and IV line and a catheter.

The maternity ward certainly wasn't designed to walk around in – it was laid out in an H-shape so it got a bit boring walking up and down. But I wanted to stay upright as long as possible, and I wanted to keep my bladder empty (apparently it helps with dilation) so I spent lots of time sitting (squatting?) on the loo chatting to my hubby. When I started going into transition (the most intense part for me) I stayed in the bed, semi-reclining, so I could doze off between contractions, and so that I could have access to the gas.

First stage of labour: Everything until full dilation of the cervix. This is usually the longest part – ending with the 'transition' which can be the most intense.
Second stage of labour: The actual birth of the baby i.e. the pushing stage.

When it came to pushing the nurse raised the end of the bed a bit more so that I was in a Semi-sitting position, I pulled my legs up myself and did the typical directed pushing that is standard in hospitals as far I know...

So there are some things I'll change next time, but the walking and the loo-sitting really helped keep things going and I'm looking forward to being more mobile next time, so that Ican actually try a couple more of these birth positions, especially when it comes to the transition and pushing stages.

So anyway, enough about me, what about those birth positions?

To give you the short answer, any position you could comfortably poop in, you could probably give birth in.

To give you the short answer, any position you could comfortably poop in, you could probably give birth in. If you think that's a bit simplistic, try pooping lying flat on your back!

Just one more thing, the idea is not to pick a position and stick with it. Move around and change positions until you find one that works for you. In fact, moving around is very important and can short the first stage of labour considerably. One study found that the time it took to get from 3cm dilation to 10cm dilation was 50% shorter in patients who changed positions. (1)

If you don't have time to read everything (like if you're in labour already or something) make sure you read the pages on Lithotomy Position, Semi-sitting and Squatting. But make sure you come back to read the rest later!

There are 4 general categories of labour positions and birth positions described on the next few pages, with some variations within each category.

I'd recommend that you read all of them, because one position may mean the difference between a great birth and a c-section. Click on the links below to find them:

Labour Positions and Birth Positions

Introduction - You are here!
On your back
Lithotomy Position - Make sure you read this one!
Side-lying or left-lateral position
On your bottom
Squatting - Don't miss this one!
Semi-sitting
Sitting
On your knees
Kneeling positions
All-fours
On your feet
Upright positions

Reference:


1.Mendez-Bauer C, & Newton M. 1986. Maternal position in labor. In Philip A, Barnes J, & Newton M (Eds.). Scientific foundations of obstetrics and gynaecology. London: Heinemann.Back.

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