15 Labor Positions That Bring Pain Relief

Despite all of the difficulties that come with pregnancy and all of the things that occur afterwards with the human body, the most painful thing most people experience in their lives is childbirth. During childbirth, the very hip bones on a pregnant person widen to accommodate the space needed for the fetus to move out, and the vagina stretches far more than its standard size. These things are inherently painful, no question about it, but there are different labor positions that can help pain relief.

These positions might not work with everyone, and a doctor might have you do one certain position because of the way the baby is emerging from the vaginal canal. In these cases, listen to your doctor; they know what they’re talking about. However, if you have a say in what position you’ll be in when you are in labor, consider trying some of these to minimize  the pain a bit and make the process a little faster.

Try to remember that these positions, while they may help with the pain, will not eliminate it. The only thing that can take the pain away is an anesthetic like an epidural. These positions will only provide temporary relief. If you are looking to get full pain relief and pain relief after the procedure, an epidural might be a better alternative as it is designed to remove pain entirely and also take pain away after the birth. Here are 15 labor positions to bring you some pain relief.

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15 Sitting

One of the birth positions to consider is sitting down. This can be excellent for rest. Labor is exhausting, and sitting can provide a break from all the labor. It uses gravity, which aids in naturally making the baby come out.

It might not be the best position to speed things up, but it will definitely do a good job providing some relief if a pregnant person has been walking around or doing a different method of childbirth and needs to take a moment to relax.

Pregnant people who try sitting might also find that sitting relieves pressure on the back leaning forward or sitting cross-legged on the bed, if at home. Sitting backwards on a chair can also relieve pressure and leaves room for your partner to rub your shoulders or back, if that is something that might soothe you. You could also sit in a plastic chair in the shower and let hot water run down your back.

14 Standing

Believe it or not, some people actually prefer to give birth standing up. And there’s some scientific validity to this and undeniable benefits. It gives the pregnant person a sense of control over their movements from being on both feet, and can help the usefulness of contractions. It will also make the contractions a bit less painful, as gravity will be working to effectively push with each contraction.

While standing, you can choose to lean against the wall or slouch against a partner. This might eventually tire your legs and your partner’s arms, however it might speed up the labor process by utilizing gravity to the natural advantage of the pregnant person.

This is a considerable position for someone looking to speed the process up a bit. You don’t need to stand the whole time, either. You can try alternating standing with other positions, with your partner’s help.

13 Walking

This one sounds a bit extreme, but when anatomy and some knowledge of birth is applied, it actually makes a lot of sense. One of the perks of standing to give birth is that contractions are more effective and gravity can help the pushing motion occur more naturally.

The movement that comes with walking enhances this even more, allowing the contractions to be superbly effective and significantly less painful during the course of your labor.

It is advised to balance walking with some kind of relaxation. Labor is a prolonged process and you’ll have plenty of time to try lots of different positions. Movement in general will release endorphins in your brain that have to do with pain minimizing, and while walking might be a little tiring, knowing when to move during labor can go a long way in relieving your pain at different points in your labor.

12 Squatting

Between standing and sitting, there’s squatting. The immediate con to this is that it’s very tiring; there’s a reason why squats are a great exercise to tone your thighs!

However, during the process of labor, squatting speeds up the exit of the baby more than any other position because you’re actively pushing the entire time that you’re squatting. In addition, you’ll be able to shift your weight to maximize comfort.

You won’t need to put forth as much effort in bearing down—the ever-quoted ‘push!’ The thighs are well aligned in a squatting position, which keeps the baby well aligned when exiting the birth canal. It aids in perineal access and gives great circulation to the baby.

Most of the benefit here lies in speed—the idea with squatting is that you get the process over with as quickly as possible by using the muscles in your abdomen to create a straight, strong chute for the baby to come out of.

11 Side-Lying

Side-lying is an excellent position for exhausted pregnant people who need to take a rest. This position isn’t hard on the back and when a pillow is propped between the legs it allows for a naturally open position, so the person can relax for a moment.

While this doesn’t use gravity as well as standing, squatting, or sitting, it does use it more than being on your back, so it’s good to take it as an alternative to that.

Another benefit with side-lying is that an epidural can be used in this position. It can slow a birth that is moving too fast, effectively giving a healthcare provider time to assist in any complications while not bringing the whole birth to a standstill. This position can also help in getting oxygen to the baby. It will also reduce the chances of anything tearing because of natural flexibility.

10 Sitting on an Exercise Ball

For people who find that squatting is too tiring to maintain for very long, sitting on an exercise ball can mimic the squatting motion but provides support for the legs and torso. So, your body will go through similar motions that it might go through when in the full squatting position, but you won’t need to worry about being strong enough to hold yourself up for that long.

Alternatively, you could lean over the ball while you’re sitting down to offer more support, and feel more in control of your motions if you feel like you need to take a break. You could also set the ball down on the chair and, while standing, lean over it for extra support while standing up to give birth.

Your partner, if present, can help support your weight for extra comfort on the exercise ball, or you can try different motions that feel best for you at the time.

9 Knee-Chest

A good position to relax during childbirth in is the knee-chest position, which is when the person lays down on their back and pulls their knees to their chest. It is imperative that the person pull their knees all the way to their chest or else they are doing the lying down with legs raised position, which is not particularly helpful in childbirth though it is the most popularly used.

The knee-chest position is a good position to avoid tearing or episiotomy, which is a surgical tear made in the vagina to aid in childbirth, because the vagina will naturally expand more in this position.

It’s an excellent position if the baby is large or if the baby is having a hard time coming out. In addition, a healthcare provider will be best able to see what’s going on in this position as they will have a clear view of the vaginal canal.

8 Leaning Forward or Kneeling with Support

This position is an excellent alternative to standing for pregnant people who are either too tired to stand, in too much pain to stand, or who don’t have the necessary support to stand and need extra support.

It aligns the baby well in the pelvis and makes contractions less painful and more productive; essentially, it’s the training-wheels version of the standing position, good for taking a break from the standing position as well as on its own.

Gravity is the name of the game in this position. It helps relieve back pain in pregnant people and makes it easier for a partner to relieve your back pain via a massage or rubbing your shoulders, if that’s something you like. It’s good for pelvic rocking, which can help make pushing come more naturally, and will put little strain on your wrists and arms which is a huge benefit.

7 Hands and Knees

This position involves getting on all fours on the bed to give birth and is very popular among pregnant people. According to scientific studies, giving birth on your hands and knees will help alleviate pressure in your back during and after labor, resulting in an overall less painful experience.

After a while, your wrists might get tired, and if this happens, you can rest on your forearms while your wrists recover. Wrist pain is the only major discomfort experienced during this position, however.

Another possibility with this position is to lean against a stack of pillows. This position allows health care providers easy access to what is going on, although you won’t be able to see anything without craning your neck down. It’s a good possibility for those looking to avoid back pain and complications after birth, though, so it’s worth trying out this popular position when you give birth.

6 Sitting on the Toilet

Birthing stools, stools with a U-shape that can be sat on during birth, are popular options for people looking for a place to sit that naturally opens the legs and gives the vaginal canal a natural open stance so that the baby can come out easily. In addition, it helps feel more natural for the pregnant person to hold their legs open for a longer time, making the process easier.

Instead of a birthing stool, a person can use a toilet seat. Be careful when doing this, however, because in the later stages when the fetus begins to emerge there’s a chance of the fetus falling into the toilet. Make sure that you aren’t over the toilet when the baby is exiting the vagina.

This position might make it difficult for a health care provider to monitor the activity of the baby and keep track of the baby’s vitals during this process.

5 Standing Supported Squat

This position can be potentially exhausting for your partner because it involves having your partner or birth attendees hold you up by your arms while you slouch over in the standing position.

However, it can increase access to the perineum by 15 percent, and aligns the fetus very well with the birthing canal to give better access to coming out easier. This position can be used in turn with one of the more relaxing positions to avoid exhaustion.

This position also, because ideally you won’t be supporting yourself, puts less stress on the back and is great at using gravity. Therefore, it does a great job of making contractions work to the pregnant person’s advantage and pushes the baby out with minimal effort from you, albeit maximum effort from the people or person who is supporting you.

4 Semi-Sitting

Semi sitting is one of the more comfortable possibilities of different birth positions to consider when going into labor. This position, in fact, is mostly designed to relieve pain. It is very comfortable and does a great job of using gravity to a natural advantage, minimizing effort on behalf of the pregnant person. In addition, it works well in a hospital bed, so you won’t need to worry about not having access to this position if you don’t want an at-home birth.

Additionally, the semi-sitting position allows for good fetal heart tone access. This is something that makes the process easier for your health care provider, a huge deal when it comes to the safety of your newborn baby. It will be easy to see the baby for the support team, which, again, makes for easy moving around and aiding the birth process as the baby exits the birth canal in the final stages of labor.

3 Rocking

Rocking is more of a movement and less of a position, but it’s a very good option for expecting pregnant people when going into labor. Gravity can help with delivery, which is why standing and walking are good ideas for the process, but rocking either on a chair or while standing can help the baby come out a little easier by aligning it in the birth canal and using gravity to concentrate it downward and outward.

Rocking can also help with contractions because that’s what the body will want to do naturally anyway. Listen to what your body wants to do and do what comes most naturally; most likely, your body knows what’s best for it, and will do what will bring it immediate relief.

Rocking your hips can help with the birth process and can be coupled with almost any other position that allows freedom of hip movement.

2 Face-up Legs-up

This position, although the most popular one used to give birth in America today, is actually the least helpful one when it comes to giving birth. Because the pregnant person is lying down with their back on the bed, they don’t have the natural advantage of gravity to help push the baby out and this leads to complications with potentials for tears or episiotomies as well as surgical tool-assisted births.

However, this position made the list because it is the best position for an epidural, a process that uses an anesthetic to numb pain while still allowing the pregnant person to feel what they’re doing. It’s also the best position for the doctor to see what they’re doing and provide care if the birth isn’t going well, so if you’re planning on getting an epidural, you might find yourself in this position.

1 Hold Hand and Sit Down Into a Squat

This position is a bit more complicated than the others, and so we have saved it for last. In this position, a person can be either in a bed or on the floor, one of the conveniences, and sits down into a squat while holding the hands of either their partner or the birth attendees.

Essentially, this creates the squatting position without exerting a huge amount of stress on the person giving birth, and therefore for the person giving birth, it is a more comfortable position.

The benefits of this position are the same as the benefits of giving birth while squatting, however it is important to note that this might be exhausting for partners and birth attendees because they are supporting the person giving birth. Try rocking while doing this, or maybe doing this every now and again while squatting to relieve some effort.

Sources: Fit Pregnancy, Babycentre, Lamaze, What to Expect

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