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Labor Positions

woman laying in hospital bed

Often times, women laboring in the hospital spend a good portion of their time in bed.   Not all women know they have options on how they labor. Doctors are checking on other patients, as are nurses, and they cant stay with a laboring mom for the entire labor.   They don't discuss with the Mama that they have the option to labor outside of bed.

The reality is that movement helps improve Mama’s sense of control can help decrease the need for pain medication and reduce the length of labor.  Upright positions allow gravity to do its job, which is to help the baby pass through the pelvis.  

You should have a birth partner or doula with you as you move around.   A doula is trained on a variety of birth positions and can help you with what positions might be the most beneficial at that moment to help you labor and keep pain as minimal as possible.  A doula can also assist with spotting you in certain positions and ensure that you are doing a position properly to get the most benefit out of the position and allows your birth partner to focus on being there for you.  

Below are a list of some positions that you could try practicing at home prior to going into labor.   




  • Good for resting

  • Uses gravity

  • Can be used with continuous electronic fetal monitoring


  • May not be possible if you have high blood pressure


Sitting on Toilet



  • Helps relax perineum

  • You get used to an open-leg position and pelvic pressure

  • Uses gravity


  • Pressure from toilet seat may be uncomfortable





  • Uses gravity

  • Contractions are often less painful

  • Baby is well aligned in your pelvis

  • May speed labor

  • Reduces backache

  • Encourages descent


  • Not recommended if you have high blood pressure

  • Can only be used with continuous electronic fetal monitoring if telemetry unit is available 





  • Encourages rapid descent

  • Uses gravity

  • May increase rotation of baby

  • Allows freedom to shift 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 

  • Your thighs keep baby well aligned


  • 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

  • Possible increased blood loss


Leaning Forward with Support



  • 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 labor partner to help relieve your back pain

  • May be more restful than standing

  • Good for pelvic rocking

  • Less strain on your wrists and arms


  • Hard for health care provider to help with birth


Semi Sitting



  • 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


  • 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


If you are interested in movement with labor, I would recommend talking to a doula for additional labor support.   You can also look for a labor comfort class in your area that will actually help teach you techniques for dealing with pain and go through many labor positions with you. 

If you are in the Cincinnati or Dayton, Ohio area – look no further.  Tamara Kankowski is a certified birth and postpartum doula as well as a childbirth educator.   Tamara provides support to families everyday across the region. Tamara has an affordable birth doula package that includes personalized support during your pregnancy, labor and delivery that continues through your first eight weeks postpartum.

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