During labour, staying active and adopting different positions greatly help with managing labour. This often comes naturally from a deeply intuitive place and will vary depending on the stage of labour and how much energy you have at the time.
Gravity helps at all stages – but particularly so in the latent and active stages of labour. Staying upright and gently active supports baby to move further down into your pelvis and helps your cervix to dilate. The first stage of labour is often the longest, so adopting a variety of positions will help you manage and can shorten labour overall.
You’ll find that lying down in bed for long periods will slow your labour down and affect the rhythm of your labour. So being upright – walking, moving around, climbing stairs all help. However, it is important to rest too, ensure you adopt a balance between being actively mobile during labour and resting to make sure you have plenty of energy for birth.
Upright positions include:
• Standing with legs hip width apart with hands on a table, wall or partner.
• Sitting/bouncing on a birthing ball
• Gently rocking hips from side to side.
• Kneeling over a bed or sofa
• Standing upright leaning on partner
• Being in water allows for upright labour and birth positions
During the second stage of labour, which is the birth of the baby, more upright positions help with bearing down and pushing, and help to reduce the risk of an instrumental delivery.
In an upright position, such as on a birthing stool, or leaning over the side of a birth pool – the pelvic outlet is wider and the uterine muscles contract more effectively supporting with pushing downwards to birth baby. Kneeling, squatting and being on all fours are also fantastic birthing positions.
If you choose to have an epidural you can still adopt upright positions to help manage labour and with the birth of baby. Your midwife can help you move into a chair or adapt the bed to make it more upright instead of lying down. You can also try using a birthing ball if you feel steady on your feet or use pillows and wedges to help you lie on your side. During the second stage, some hospital beds can be adapted to help you into a sitting position, or you could try going on your knees and leaning over the back of the bed to help with the descent of baby’s head and bearing down.
Upright positions in labour and birth can help with shortening your labour, help with managing the power of your contractions and encourage baby to move down in the pelvis easier. As you can see, there are lots of positions you can try out – which we discuss in detail during our antenatal course, alongside other great ways of managing labour and the birth of your baby.