4 Birthing positions better than on your back

In the U.S., women giving birth on their backs in a hospital bed is not uncommon.  Most mothers spend hours laboring on their backs, usually strapped to uncomfortable monitors and IVs or other medications they may be receiving. The experience is considered the safest way to give birth in many hospital environments. And laboring mothers are also easier to administer medications to and monitor when they are in one place. Some hospitals even have specific rules and regulations about moms-to-be remaining in the hospital bed. But contrary to popular belief, giving birth in bed while flat on your back is not the most favorable position for either a comfortable, healthy or timely delivery.  Research shows that mothers who labor on their backs have longer labors and often require pain relief like epidurals than mothers who give birth in a variety of other positions.

Laboring on your back also creates some challenges that other positions don’t. When a mother reclines, it becomes difficult to move in a way that helps her manage her pain and can lead to very uncomfortable back labor. It is also much harder for a baby to emerge because it defies gravity. The baby has to come up and over the pelvis to be born. Not to mention, the pelvis is far more narrow and less open when a mother reclines. Still, American women are quite accustomed to the tradition of laboring on their backs and in many cases, aren’t given alternatives, that are equally, if not more safe, than laboring in a bed.


Here are four birthing positions that are better than on your back:


1) All fours

Laboring or giving birth on all fours is a great way to manage your pain and creates a more significant opportunity for movement. When a mother moves to all fours, it allows her belly and pelvis to relax and open and takes the pressure off of her back. If she has a partner or a doula, it also creates an opportunity for a gentle massage of the lower back area, applying pressure, or just rocking and swaying the pelvis in a way that encourages the baby to drop that back-laying does not.


2) Squatting

When a laboring mother squats, it allows her pelvis to open far more than most other birthing positions. That’s why mothers are often encouraged to practice squatting during pregnancy. It’s one of the best exercises moms-to-be can do to promote positive birth experiences. During delivery, squatting, while over a bed, in a pool, or another area set-up for birth can feel like the most natural and comfortable way to give birth. Gravity is in full-force, too, but mainly, the mother’s body is at its most open to allow the baby maximum room to make his or her way into the world.


3) Supported Standing

While many assume that laboring moms don’t have the strength to stand while giving birth, the opposite is true. Many women find that a supported standing position (either by a wall, a bed, or a birthing partner) can be quite comfortable. She can move, sway, dance, rock, and lean over as desired to allow her baby to move gracefully lower and lower into her pelvis. Having the support is key to this position, whether it’s having someone to lean on, hold hands with or let some of your weight melt into so that the birthing mother only has to focus on allowing her body to relax and open.


4) Side-lying

While the side-lying position might not allow the pelvis to open quite as much as other positions, it can be a good option for when a mom needs extra support but doesn’t want to deliver on her back. It can also be an excellent laboring position for massage, can help her relax during the more challenges phases or delivery, as well as slow down a very fast moving birth.


While for some women, especially those who have a very speedy birth, delivery on their backs might work out just fine. But for many women, giving birth this way creates a more challenging obstacle to a healthy birth. Make sure to explore other options and just find what feels natural, good, and lets your body open during delivery. The choice is up to you, and no, you don’t have to take it lying down.