Women in labor are often depicted in movies or TV shows either lying helplessly on a hospital bed as contractions wreak havoc on their bodies or pacing around the room, carefully pulling their IV stands in tow and breathing heavily. But there are plenty of other positions that are helpful when you’re getting ready for baby, many of which have benefits for you and your unborn child. Here are the top five to consider.
1. Standing squat. This simply involves standing upright, bending your knees and leaning on something. With the right support (think husband, boyfriend, wall or squat bar), this position can realign your pelvis, opening it up by as much as 15 percent. By taking advantage of gravity, you’ll be able to help your baby move further through the birth canal. This can make contractions hurt less and might even make labor more productive. In the second stage of labor, getting into this position can increase your urge to push. The only downside is that you might get tired easily from standing, and your partner or support needs to be strong enough to hold most of your weight.
2. Squatting. This is much like the standing squat, but your rear will be much closer to the ground. You can use a wall, an exercise ball or even a chair for balance. This position helps to encourage your baby’s descent and is great for fetal circulation. It can also increase the diameter of your pelvis by up to 2 centimeters. As an added bonus, your thighs can help ensure that your baby is properly aligned in the birth canal. However, it could get tiring to hold this squat after a while.
3. Hands and knees. It might feel silly, but getting on your hands and knees on the bed or floor is often comfortable for mom-to-bes during labor. It takes pressure off of your spine, which could reduce back pain, and can rotate your baby into a better position for delivery. It can also improve your baby’s oxygen supply, but again, you might get tired holding the position. Take pressure off your wrists by using pillows.
4. Lying on your side. This is a comfortable position for women who have already tried more tiring ones. It boosts your baby’s oxygen supply, is safe to do with an epidural and can reduce your chances of having an episiotomy. Of course, it can also help you relax as you prepare to do the heavier work. It won’t be taking advantage of gravity and it could require leg support, but it’s a position many women opt to use.
5. Rocking. Rhythmic motions are soothing during labor, which makes rocking a worthwhile activity. Just rock slowly back and forth to mimic your breathing while sitting on a chair, exercise ball or the edge of the bed. You could get the benefit of gravity if you stand up and use your partner for support, essentially engaging in a type of slow dance. A rocking chair might even be helpful if there’s one in the area.
When it comes down to it, how you choose to position yourself during labor is entirely up to you. There’s no such thing as a perfect position, so don’t feel pressured to like something that simply isn’t working for you. Talk to your doctor about your preferences beforehand, but be prepared to change your plan if necessary. You might find that during the actual labor, you’re not as willing to get down into a squat, which is totally fine.