Pros and Cons of 11 Common Labor Positions

By Paulina G. Perez, RN, BSN, CD, LCCE, FACCE

Movement and positioning in labor work magic. Movement enhances comfort by stimulating the receptors in the brain that decrease pain perception. The result is that you are able to tolerate increasingly strong contractions. When contractions become very strong, endorphins are released and pain perception decreases even more. Ultimately, your movement in response to your contractions decreases pain and facilitates labor – a win-win. Movement also helps the baby move through the pelvis, and some positions enlarge pelvic diameters.

The positions shown here facilitate the normal, natural process of labor. What position should you use? Follow your body. Move freely in response to what you feel. Your body will let you know just what position is best at every point in your labor.

Standing Supported SquatSTANDING SUPPORTED SQUAT

Pros
Realigns your pelvis to increase the opening by up to 15 percent
Allows you to be supported by your standing or sitting partner, the wall or a squat bar
Takes advantage of gravity
Makes contractions feel less painful and more productive
Lengthens your trunk and helps your baby line up with the angle of your pelvis
Movement causes changes in your pelvic joints, helping your baby through the birth canal
May increase your urge to push in the second stage of labor

Cons
Requires a strong partner
May be tiring for both of you

 

SITTING ON TOILET

Pros
Helps relax perineum
You get used to an open-leg position and pelvic pressure
Uses gravity

Cons
Pressure from toilet seat may be uncomfortable

SittingSitting

 

SITTING

Pros
Good for resting
Uses gravity
Can be used with continuous electronic fetal monitoring

Cons
May not be possible if you have high blood pressure

 

SQUATTING

Pros
EnSquattingcourages rapid descent
Uses gravity
May increase rotation of baby
Allows freedom to shifSquattingt your weight for comfort
Allows excellent perineal access
Excellent for fetal circulation
May increase pelvis diameter by as much as 2 centimeters
Requires less bearing-down effort
Descent is encouraged by the position
Your thighs keep baby well aligned

Cons
Often tiring
Sometimes hard for health-care provider to hear fetal heart tones
May be hard for you to assist in birth if you wish to do so

 

SIDE-LYING

Pros
Helps get oxygen to the baby
Good resting position
Helpful if you have elevated blood pressure
Fine with epidural
Can make contractions more effective
Easier for you to relax between contractions during the second stageSide Lying
Can slow a birth that’s moving too fast
Your partner can assist in the birth by supporting your legs
Lowers chances of tearing or the need for episiotomy
Good access to perineum

Cons
May be hard for health-care provider to access fetal heart tones
No help from gravity
If no one can hold your legs, you must support them on your own
You may feel too passive in this position

 

WALKING

Pros
Uses gravity
Contractions are often less painful
Baby is well aligned in your pelvis
May speed labor
Reduces backache
Encourages descent

Cons
Not recommended if you have high blood pressure
Cannot be used with continuous electronic fetal monitoring

 

STANDING

Pros
Uses gravity
Helps get oxygen to the baby
Contractions are more effective and less painful
May speed labor
Helps create a pushing urge

Cons
Poor control at birth
Hard for health-care provider to see the baby

 

LEANING OR KNEELING FORWARD WITH SUPPORT

Pros
Can help shift the baby if needed
Uses gravity
Birth ball can be used
Contractions are often less painful and more productive
Baby is well aligned in your pelvis
Relieves backache
Easier for your partner to help relieve your back pain
May be more restful than standing
Good for pelvic rocking
Less strain on your wrists and arms

Cons
Hard for health-care provider to help with birth

 

KNEE-CHEST

Pros
Good for back labor
Assists with rotation of baby, if needed
Takes pressure off hemorrhoids
Good position to avoid tearing or episiotomy
Good delivery position for large baby
Helpful if fetal heart tones are low

Cons
Hard for your support team to maintain eye contact with you
Hard for you to see what’s going on

 

SEMI-SITTING

Pros
Comfortable
Good use of gravity
Good resting position
Works well in hospital beds
Good visibility at birth for your support team
Easy access to fetal heart tones for your health-care provider

Cons
Access to your perineum can be poor
Mobility of your coccyx is impaired
Puts some stress on your perineum but less than when lying on your back

 

ON BACK WITH LEGS RAISED

Cons
Works against gravity
Compresses all major vessels
Tearing or need for an episiotomy is more likely
No use of gravity to aid in birth

Lamaze International

About Lamaze International

About Lamaze International
Lamaze is a nonprofit organization that promotes a natural, healthy and safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting. Knowing that pregnancy and childbirth can be demanding on a woman’s body and mind, Lamaze serves as a resource for information about what to expect and what choices are available during the childbearing years.