Historically speaking, giving birth at home used to be the only way babies were delivered. Throughout time, however, medical interventions were developed and women were encouraged, if not forced, to deliver in a hospital. Depending on your age, your grandmother or great grandmother may have been delivered at home. For hospital births that happened upwards of 70 years ago, though, can you believe that at one point, women were actually sedated during labor?
Today, how you choose to give birth is a personal decision, and other than your spouse or significant other, the only other opinion that matters is that of your midwife or doctor. If it is determined to be safe for you and your baby, you can absolutely birth your baby at home and likely do so with no complications.
Birth at home means there will be no medical interventions, like an epidural or episiotomy, during labor and delivery. Because of this, women need to be able to find the right positions to keep them comfortable while they are in labor and allow their cervixes to dilate, as well as the best positions for them to safely push their babies out.
Word of mouth will help give you some guidance and, of course, so will labor and delivery classes. However, women typically find what works the best for them may not work as well for their friends who also birthed at home.
Are you considering a home birth? If so, do you know your options? Read on for eight great positions for delivering your baby at home.
8 Sitting Positions
A few weeks before you have your baby, when you are antsy and contemplating chugging castor oil, you probably begin to wonder, “when the hell is this kid coming?” Well, we all know that babies come when they are ready, and sometimes need an eviction notice, but the big idea behind helping a baby to come out through the normal means of exiting lies in his or her descent into the birth canal.
You can make yourself contract to the point of shrieking in pain, but if baby’s head isn’t engaged, sorry – not much else is going to happen.
Things you can do to help the baby to drop into position include walking (which is actually something you can do while in labor, but more on that later), squatting (more on that, too) and sitting. Yes, sitting!
This is not to say you should hang out on the couch all day every day, or that the best thing to do once you start feeling contractions is to plop down in your favorite easy chair (if your water already broke, hello, mess). What we mean is that sitting in specific positions can help your baby to get lower and, eventually out.
- Using a birthing ball can help your labor to progress. Sit on it with your feet planted on the floor, and your legs spread just past the width of your hips. Be sure to watch your posture, so you are not slouching. As you are on the ball, you can bounce gently through your contractions, or roll/rock your hips to ease your discomfort.
- Sitting on a toilet, either in the normal way or turned around so you can lean over the back of it can help keep you comfortable, while also keeping your amniotic fluid in one location if your water has broken.
- When you are ready to push, you can sit in an actual chair, if you have one you are comfortable in. On the other hand, if you have a birthing pool, you can sit in it and lean on the side of the pool for support.
If you feel like you want to be in your bed, but know you do not want to lie down (which is actually not the best position for you and baby, anyway), you can choose to utilize a semi-sitting position, which is most likely what you would experience if you were to deliver your baby at a hospital.
For women who deliver in hospitals, the semi-sitting position is utilized because the back of bed is able to be propped up, the lower portion can drop, and you would put your feet up in either stirrups, something to provide counter pressure, or actually have your legs held back by nurses and your support person/people.
If you had a hospital birth, and you felt this method of delivery was effective for you, you can absolutely do the same thing in the comfort of your own home. Find some comfortable pillows to prop you up and have either your spouse or some other support people nearby to help hold your feet for you as you push. You can also grasp your thighs and pull yourself forward as you push, which helps with the “bearing down” you will need to do.
The advantages of this position are that:
- It is better than lying flat on your back (lithotomy)
- It will not interfere with an epidural, catheter or IV (if you wound up at the hospital. At home, you won’t need to consider these factors).
- You will get some help from gravity, but not as much as you would if you were in an upright sitting position.
- This position can also be used for resting.
Unfortunately, this position also comes with disadvantages, too, which is likely why women consider many other positions for home births. The disadvantages include:
- Pressure placed on your sacrum, which can restrict your baby’s movement through the birth canal.
- Your movement is restricted.
- Sometimes, this can lead to needing interventions like forceps of the use of a vacuum.
- There is an increased risk of the baby being in a bad position for delivery.
- There will be increased pressure on your perineum, which unfortunately can result in tearing.
If you ever took prenatal yoga, you may have practiced squatting during your classes to help prepare you for labor and delivery. If you did, your instructor may have also asked you how far along your were and made sure you weren’t high risk. Why? Because the act of squatting, especially on a regular basis, will slowly but surely help your pelvis to open and, thanks to gravity, move your baby down the birth canal.
If you never took prenatal yoga, and the term “squat” only brings images of picking up something from the floor after you’ve dropped it (but then toppling over because you’re 750 months pregnant), not to worry; we’ve got your covered, sister.
Just as we mentioned before, you can practice squatting before having your baby. In fact, it’s actually going to become easier and easier to do if you practice squatting on a regular basis. Doing this will help to strengthen your leg, while will help you have the endurance to do it for an extended period of time.
As with anything birth-related, prior to the big day , talk with your midwife about your desire to squat while in labor. She may have some pointers and advice that will help this position work well for you.
5 Hands and Knees/All Fours
Just as you cannot predict the way a baby will act once he or she has entered the world, you also cannot predict his or her behavior while inside the womb. Sometimes, babies have their own ideas about how they like to hang out while growing in your belly. You know, it would be too easy for them to be perfectly positioned to help them make their grand entrance into the world, wouldn’t it?
The ideal position for a baby to be born is with his or her head face down, or anterior. But sometimes, babies are born with their faces up, known as the posterior position and sometimes referred to as “sunny-side up”. Delivering posterior babies can be much more challenging for you, because the top of the head enters the pelvis first, and it does not mold as easily as the crown of the head. You may need to adjust your position to either help turn your baby, or help you get the baby out.
A posterior baby can lead to some nasty back labor. Being on your hands and knees, or “all fours,” can help you with this pain, as it takes the pressure off of your lower back and allows you to roll your hips and your spine through contractions. In addition, some practitioners believe that being in this position can help the baby to rotate to be anterior, in as little as ten minutes.
If your baby isn’t anterior, and you just want another position that may be helpful for you during labor and delivery, being on your hands and knees could prove to benefit you as it is known to have:
- Fewer infant deaths related to shoulder dystocia
- Less painful and more efficient contractions
- Shorter labors
- Potential to decrease the risk of cesarean deliveries
There are variations to this position, too, if you find it is uncomfortable for your wrists or knees. You can be on your knees and lean your upper body against your bed or a chair and, if your knees are uncomfortable, you can always place a soft blanket or pillow beneath them for your comfort. Remember, you do not need to maintain this position the entire time, only through a contraction and/or when you are ready to push.
Let’s give it a guess, here. You probably saw us mention your knees and immediately grimaced and felt like you needed kneepads. Not to worry, ladies, this isn’t going to involve any shattered kneecaps, ok? No one is looking for you to do some fancy knee-slides across your living room floor. Remember, we are trying to help you!
If you have gathered anything from this article, it is that you need to do what works for you when it comes to your labor and delivery. What you think will happen and what you think you will do, versus what actually happens and what you actually do can be incredibly different.
Giving birth while you are on your knees is similar to the hands and knees/all fours position, but is essentially a variation for those whose wrists cannot handle that much pressure, or who feel they need to be more upright to help their baby descend. Instead of balancing your weight between your knees and your hands, you would have most of your weight on your legs, with your shins flat on the floor. You can lean against the back of a bed, a birthing ball, a chair, or even your partner to help support your upper body.
Some things for you to consider about this position include:
- Swaying, rocking, tilting or rolling your hips can help relieve your pain and help guide your baby into an ideal position.
- Be sure you are on a comfortable surface, so your legs don’t get sore and you don’t wind up with bruises.
- If you kneel with one knee up, this can help you feel like you are opening up more space for the baby, and can help the baby to move into a better position.
- This position can help you relieve back labor. Your partner/midwife/doula can apply counter-pressure to your lower back as you go through a contraction.
- There will likely be less pressure on your perineum, which could result in less tearing.
While your knees might not sound appealing right now, just keep it in the back of your mind if you are considering a home birth. It might just be what works for you.
3 Lying on Your Side
There isn’t any doubt that labor and birth can be long and exhausting. Yes, there are women out there who pop babies out in just a few hours, but for many women, it can be more than 24 hours or even days. Yes, we said it. DAYS.
What if, while you are in labor, you really feel like you need to rest? You could be physically and mentally exhausted and you really just want to lie down. That is one of the main benefits for you if you choose to utilize the side lying position. In addition to allowing you to relax for a while, if your baby isn’t positioned properly, like we mentioned before, lying on your side can assist him or her with turning to an optimal position.
You likely will not utilize the side-lying position while you are in early labor but, instead, you might want to consider it while you push. In addition to letting you relax and helping your baby to turn, this position allows you to:
What do we mean when we say “side-lying?” You aren’t too far off if you envision literally lying on your side. For labor, you can lie on your side if it helps you to relax through your contractions. If your spouse, or another support person applies some pressure to your lower back, it could help soothe you through the pain.
As you push, you will be lying on your right or left side (again, left will help with circulation and blood pressure), with your bottom leg out straight or curved in, whichever is comfortable for you, and your top leg will be held in the air, bent, by your significant other, doula, or midwife.
During pregnancy, when you feel like you are carrying a backpack filled with bricks on the front of your body, sometimes the last thing that sounds appealing is standing. Girl, all you want to do is sit, and we get it. Your back hurts, your feet hurt, your ankles are swollen and you may have, possibly, wet yourself once or twice (or more – we won’t tell anyone).
There certainly isn’t much to be said that is positive about standing when you feel this way, especially at the end of your pregnancy. However, standing might just be the ticket for your baby to enter into this bright and happy world.
Just as with the other positions noted before, standing can help your baby to drop into the birth canal and allow for a (possibly) easier delivery. Thanks to gravity, your body being in an upright position gives baby no other option but to move down. Other benefits to birthing while standing include:
The negative side to standing while in labor or to give birth is that, again, being on your feet can be exhausting. Especially if you choose to walk around to help your baby come out, you may find that by the time you want to push, you are fatigued. So , go with what your instincts tell you and, if need be, switch to another position we’ve suggested.
1 Standing Supported Squat
What about your partner? What if you want your husband involved in helping your birth your child. There certainly are ways to involve him in the process with the other positions, but this one is probably the one where he is most involved.
Granted, you can be supported by someone other than your spouse or significant other, like a midwife or doula, or your friend or even your mother, but many women prefer to have the father of the baby present to not only emotionally support them, but physically support them, too, while in labor.
The standing supported squat position allows you to be supported by your standing or sitting partner, a wall, or a squat bar if you have one available to you. If you are supported by your partner, he or she is literally supporting your weight by holding you under your arms, as you lean against him or her with your knees bent.
Similar to the regular squat position, enduring labor while in the standing supported squat provides you with the same benefits as doing so while in the regular squat, such as:
Things to remember about this position, though, is that your very pregnant body is going to be like dead weight to whoever is helping you to stand. This can be tiring for your partner, so he or she may need to be sure they’ve been hitting the gym in the months prior to delivery. Just kidding – maybe.
Another way to make this position enjoyable for the both of you (especially if the person supporting you is your significant other/spouse) would be, between contractions, for you to turn around and face your partner. You can drape your arms over their shoulders and sway back and forth, almost as if you are dancing.