Labour can be painful and uncomfortable but there are useful positions for labour that can help relieve the discomfort and aid the natural process of labour.
Your aim is to be as comfortable as possible, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Being upright, able to move around and free to change positions is better for you and your baby. These positions may help you to manage pain and avoid medications. To be comfortable – walk, move, and change your position as often as you can.
Try to stand upright, relax, and move around as much as possible. This will help your baby move through the birth canal. Your partner can be involved and supportive by helping you move and change positions often. You also need to be aware that if you have an epidural you will not be able to stand up and move around and you will have no feeling in your legs.
Stage 1 – from the onset of regular contractions until the cervix is fully dilated (10cm). It is the contractions of the uterus that thin and open the cervix.
Stage 2 – from full dilatation of the cervix until the baby is born.
Stage 3 – from the birth of the baby until the delivery of the placenta and membranes.
Stage 4 – from the delivery of the placenta through to early postnatal care.
One of the benefits of standing up and walking around is that it moves the baby’s head down into the right position, in anticipation of birth. It also helps to relieve backache and it helps widen your pelvis. It may assist your contractions to become regular and stronger. You can lean on a bed or hard surface to take some of the weight off your legs. By using a standing position you are making the most of gravity to help you in the early stages of labour.
Sitting upright allows you to bear down effectively while providing you with some support. You can sit on a birthing ball – this allows you to continue with a comforting rocking movement, on a chair (facing forward or sitting astride), or on the toilet. Sitting on the toilet can be a good position for those who find it difficult to completely relax their pelvic floor muscles.
This position takes advantage of gravity. It gives your baby more room to turn, widens the pelvis to help the baby come down and out, and it also allows you to shift your weight around. When squatting, the natural pull of gravity works in your favour because your body weight is pressing down on your uterus. It can be easier to push when giving birth from a squatting position. However, be aware that squatting can hinder the birthing process by increasing the bend in the birth canal.
This position allows you to rest if you are too tired to stand, squat or kneel and is one of the best positions if you have an epidural in place. If your labour is progressing too quickly, lying on your side can be used to slow down the baby. You can lie on your side and bend one leg up, holding your thigh under the knee or your partner or support person can hold your leg up not being too high while you are pushing. Make sure they hold the leg at a comfortable height, especially if you have an epidural in place. If you have had an epidural, you will probably need help from your partner or caregiver to roll you onto the other side. Do not try rolling on your own, as it is possible to misjudge and fall off the bed because you are unable to feel your legs.
If you are comfortable laying on your back or your caregiver has suggested this position then stay in this position. But if it doesn’t feel right, then you can try another position. This kind of position can reduce oxygen flow to your baby as the heavy uterus can compress the major blood vessel leading to your heart. This can lead to your baby being distressed. It can also make your breathing more difficult because the uterus can push up against the diaphragm (the muscle under the lungs).
If you are hoping to have a natural birth, moving around during labour is the best way to help you achieve this. Make sure you speak to your care-giver about different positions in labour as they will know of many alternative positions and will be able to assist you to work out what suits you.