POSITIONS for LABOR & DELIVERY
By Kat Heagberg
Positions for Labor:
While each woman will have her own individual “birth dance” (a variety of positions that she naturally gravitates toward in order to ease discomfort and relax), becoming familiar with some of the positions below ahead of time can be helpful. Rehearsing and getting a “felt sense” of these positions will help to increase confidence—and, if you’ve developed a familiarity with these postures ahead of time, you will likely find yourself gravitating more easily toward them during labor.
During the early stages of labor, many women feel best standing or walking around. These upright positions allow you to use gravity to your advantage, aiding the baby’s movement downward.
During Contractions, it may feel best to lean against something.
Try standing a little further than your arm’s distance in front of a wall with your feet grounded into the floor and in a wide, comfortable distance apart.
Place your palms flat to the wall and sway and circle your hips while in this position.
You might also like slow dancing with a partner during the early stages of labor.
All Fours/“Table Pose”
Come on to your hands and knees. Your hands should be a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart (technically speaking, the center of the wrist will be in line with the outer shoulder). Avoid arching your back. In this position, you can explore difference ways to tilt, rock, and circle your pelvis. All fours is also great for relieving lower back pain. For more support, rest your elbows on a chair, allowing your weight to lean forward.
You might also like this position with your forearms on the floor, with your elbows under your shoulders, and your knees spread wide. Keep your lower back flat and explore different movements with your hips and pelvis.
Supported Child’s Pose
From all fours, bring your big toes to touch and separate knees as wide apart as feels good. Come onto your forearms, placing them flat on the floor, elbows to knees.
You could also rest your torso over a chair, bolster, or pillow. This position will help to open the pelvis and can be helpful for relieving back pain.
Get into a squatting position while lean forward onto a chair or a partner for support. If you feel unsteady and/or your heels easily come to the floor, place a rolled up towel or small rolled blanket under your heels (this can also make it easier to lean forward). Note that this position can make contractions more intense.
Try sitting on the edge of a chair or bed in a squatting position, slightly leaning forward, and keep your feet and knees wide.
Supported Partner Squat
Stand facing your partner, mom’s palms face up, partner’s face down, and then you grasp each other’s forearms. Mom has her feet wide and slightly turned out, ready to squat.
The mom’s partner will bend their knees slightly, lean back slightly, and step one foot forward for support. The partner leaning back slightly will offer mom some resistance as she bends her knees and moves into a full squat. The mom’s partner continues to support her weight as she stays in the squat. Mom can allow her spine to lengthen and hinge forward slightly as heels descend down toward the floor and hips release.
Position for Rest:
Supported Shavasana Lying on the Left Side
Lie on your left side with a pillow(s) or bolster(s) between your knees. This position is preferable to lying flat on your back which can reduce blood flow through the placenta and slow labor.
You might also enjoy coming onto your knees and lying forward onto a big stack of cushions, pillows, or a beanbag. Be sure to relax your jaw and breathe.
Positions for Delivery:
It can be helpful to practice these postures alone and if possible, with your partner, doula, and/or other support people ahead of time.
Put your hind leg into a kneeling position while the other leg is bent in front with the foot flat on the floor. This is an especially great birthing position for moms who wish to catch their babies themselves.
Full Upright Kneeling
Come to a high kneeling position with both of your knees on the ground and separated. Your doctor or midwife can catch your baby behind you.
All Fours on Forearms
Come into the aforementioned all fours position and then drop down on to your forearms. Your forearms can rest on a pillow or folded blanket for support. Keep your head down and your bottom up. This position can decrease the risk of tearing and can be helpful if the baby’s head is large. This position may also be used during early labor to help turn a posterior baby.
Leaning Forward on a Birthing Ball
Come onto your knees and lean forward over your birthing ball. This position can also prevent tearing when baby’s head is large and can also help to slow down a rapid second stage of labor.
Full Kneeling with Support from 2 Partners
Mom takes a high kneeling position leaning forward and wrapping each arm around the neck of a partner on either side for support. With the support of these two partners, mom can sway and circle her pelvis.
Positions for Squatting
Mom’s partner stands behind her with their forearms under her armpits. Mom can bend her knees and release into the support during contractions.
Squatting with 2 Partners*
Mom comes into a full squatting position with each arm around the neck of a partner on either side for support, similar to the Full Kneeling with Support from 2 Partners described above. Mom’s two partners can support her knees in this position when she bears down.
*Squatting is not necessarily recommended as a delivery position if baby has a larger head, as it may increase the risk of tearing
**If you are giving birth in a hospital or birthing center, you may have access to a squat bar and/or birthing stool which can help to support you in the squatting position.
The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger
A Time to Align: An Anusara Yoga Prenatal Guide for Teachers, Students, and New Moms by Sue Elkind