What Are the Different Types of Birthing Positions for Expectant Mothers?

As your due date gets closer, you may start thinking about the process of childbirth. While lying flat on your back with your legs raised may be the traditional idea of labor, you can use different types of positions during the process. You may find that trying other alternatives helps to alleviate the discomfort that often comes with childbirth, making it easier for you to have your baby. 

What are the Labor Stages of Childbirth?

Many women assume more than one position throughout their labor, which typically occurs in various stages. 

Early labor. The cervix dilates to around 4 centimeters. Most women remain at home during this time. You should try to relax while you can. It’s fine to consume clear liquids or eat a light meal at this stage. Contractions will come and go, but will eventually start to get stronger.

Active labor. During the first stage of active childbirth, your cervix can widen up to 7 centimeters. Women usually start making their way to the hospital at this point. You’ll know your contractions are coming faster when they start coming every three to four minutes and lasting around 60 seconds. Slow, timed breathing can make things more comfortable, along with your choice of birth position.

As you move into the second stage of active labor, your cervix can widen up to 10 centimeters. Contractions start coming faster, around every two to three minutes, and can last up to 90 seconds. Eventually, your baby starts making its way down the birth canal. The cervix should be wholly dilated, allowing you to push the baby along with your contractions.

Afterbirth. Your uterus continues contracting, pushing out the remnants of the placenta. It usually takes up to 15 minutes to complete the afterbirth delivery.

Types of Birthing Positions

Trying different birthing positions can help with the discomfort you feel throughout the delivery. Many women find that movement helps them feel more at ease throughout the process. Staying in motion can encourage the release of endorphins that reduce any pain you may be experiencing. The positions outlined below are designed to mimic the delivery process. Many women adjust their stances as they move through the different stages of labor. 

Continued

Upright positions. These can be beneficial for the earlier stages of labor. Staying on your feet helps the baby move down into the correct position for delivery. Standing positions may help increase the strength of your contractions and shorten your delivery. Women often experience less back pain and a reduced need for the doctor to use forceps or a vacuum device to assist in delivery.

Supported squat. The supported squat helps you realign your pelvis, causing it to increase spacing by up to 15%. You can use the wall, a squat bar, or a partner as your support. 

Swaying or walking. Walking back and forth keeps your activity level up during labor. You can stand in place and sway while using your partner for support when your contractions hit. 

Sitting. Find a comfortable place capable of safely supporting your weight. You can also use electronic fetal monitoring devices from this position. A chair, the edge of a toilet, or your favorite balancing ball are some of the items you can use for sitting. You can also rock back and forth to help you feel more comfortable. 

You can remain upright as you move into the later stages of your labor to keep your pelvis open. Some women are more comfortable pushing their baby out from an upright position. You can also try other stances to facilitate the delivery process.

Lying on your side. Lying down on your side allows you to get more oxygen to your baby. You may also find it beneficial if you are dealing with high blood pressure. Your doctor can still place an epidural, and you may find that lying on your side increases the effectiveness of your contractions. The resting position can help you remain calm and relaxed during heavier contractions in the later phase of your labor. 

A side resting position can slow things down if your birth process is moving along too quickly. Partners can participate by providing support for your legs. 

Leaning or kneeling. A kneeling position helps shift the baby when necessary. You can use a birth ball from this position. Contractions may cause you less pain and be more productive. Staying in a kneeling or leaning stance aligns the baby with your pelvis and can relieve back pain. 

Semi or half-sitting. You may be more comfortable delivering your baby from a semi-sitting position. It helps gravity assist in the delivery and enables you to rest between contractions. Your doctor can easily monitor the baby’s heartbeat while you are in a half-sitting position. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 05, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Pregnancy Birth & Baby: “Positions for labour and birth.”

Kaiser Permanente: “The four stages of labor.”

Lamaze International: “Labor Positions & Movement.”

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