During the first phase of labour, the contractions can be very painful. You will experiment to find the most comfortable position, and will probably need to change positions frequently.
Upright positions are particularly effective because the force of gravity helps the baby to move down the narrow and slightly curved birth canal. Your own movements help this process immensely, for instance if you frequently change positions.
Good positions to change between
• Walking, standing or leaning against a person, wall or chair.
• On all fours, sitting up or lying on your side or leaning against a beanbag, chair or upright bed.
• Bending forwards slightly and rocking back and forth with your hands on your hips during contractions.
• Sitting or lying down between contractions; take the chance to rest and relax whenever possible.
• Taking a bath or shower during the contractions. Many maternity wards allow you to have a pleasantly warm bath. The heat helps you relax during the labour process. It calms your stress hormones and eases the pain. Read more about pain relief during labour.
Let the force of gravity help you.
There are many benefits in trying to maintain an upright position during much of the labour.
• The uterus works more effectively.
• You breathe more easily, increasing the oxygen supply to yourself and your baby.
• Reduced risk of low blood pressure and nausea.
• You feel more in control of what is happening.
Your birthing position when the pushing starts
During the next phase, expelling the baby, you should choose the birthing position that feels most comfortable for you (provided it is also healthy for the baby).
Read more about the stages of labour.
It is up to you whether to give birth standing up, lying down, crouching, standing on all fours, leaning forwards over the bed or sitting upright.
Let the midwife guide you and suggest positions, and try out what feels most natural for you. You may need to change positions several times.
It is always important for the midwife to have a good view during the final stage as the baby's head appears, in order to assess whether the delivery is happening too quickly. By controlling the speed of the delivery, tearing can be reduced in and around the vagina.
If a ventouse (vacuum) needs to be used towards the end of the delivery, the midwife will make sure you are in a position where you can easily take the baby in your arms.
Let the midwife advise and guide you to find the optimal labour position for you.
Download our free app, The Pregnancy Book, where you will find more tips, advice and information.
There are many advantages of giving birth in an upright position, but what's most important is to change between different positions to help the child pass through the birth canal.