Movement and positions during labour

If you can, try to keep moving, stay upright and change position during labour.

When women give birth on TV or in films, they tend to spend their labour lying back on a hospital bed. But most women will move around a lot during labour and will change position as their labour progresses and the baby changes position.

Moving around, staying upright and changing position can:

  • ease the pain
  • help you cope
  • make you feel in control of your labour
  • increase your chances of a shorter labour
  • push the baby downwards
  • help you find the best position for giving birth.

Good positions to try during labour

There are lots of positions you can try. Do whatever feels right for you and remember that your midwife and birth partner are there to help and encourage you.

You could try:

  • sitting, leaning on a table
  • straddling a chair or toilet, facing backwards
  • standing, leaning on a bed, table or against your birth partner
  • standing, leaning on a birth ball that’s sitting on a bed
  • kneeling on the floor, cradling a birth ball
  • kneeling on all fours (this can help if you’ve had lots of backache)
  • kneeling over the back of the bed or against your birth partner
  • rocking back and forth on, sit, on gently bounce on a birth ball.

Try to walk around too, if you can. If you get tired or your contractions get stronger, you can try to keep moving by shifting your weight from one foot to the other, or by rocking your pelvis.

Some of these positions will make it easier for your birth partner to give you a massage or back rub. This will help release endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones, which can help with the pain. There are lots of other options for pain relief during labour too.

Remember to rest when you need to and don't worry about what you look like. The midwives have seen it all before, so do what feels good for you.

If you have an epidural

Having an epidural increases your chance of having an assisted birth. Research shows that if you’re having your first baby, you may be more likely to have a vaginal birth without any help if you lie down during the second stage of labour, rather than stay upright.

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Sources

Royal College of Midwives (2012). Evidence Based Guidelines for Midwifery-led Care in Labour. Positions for Labour and Birth. https://www.rcm.org.uk/sites/default/files/Positions%20for%20Labour%20and%20Birth.pdf

Sue Macdonald, Gail Johnson (2017) Mayes’ Midwifery, Elsevier, London

Bick D, et al. A multicentre, randomised controlled trial of position during the late stages of labour in nulliparous women with an epidural: clinical effectiveness and an economic evaluation (BUMPES). Health Technol Assess2017;21(65)

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Last reviewed on September 9th, 2019. Next review date September 9th, 2022.

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