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Mayo Clinic Health Library

Slide show: Labor positions

Updated: 02-23-2019

Pregnant woman kneeling with birthing ball

Pregnant woman kneeling with birthing ball

There's no perfect position for labor. However, trying different positions can help you feel more in control and cope with the pain. Research suggests that certain positions can also enhance the progress of labor. By involving your labor partner, you might feel greater support, too. As your labor progresses, try positions until you find one that helps you feel comfortable.

Keep in mind that with the use of some pain relief medications you might be restricted to bed or to a specific position. If you have preferences for your position during labor, talk to your health care provider.


Woman in labor swaying with partner

Standing or walking during the first stage of labor can reduce its duration. Lean on your partner for support during contractions — or wrap your arms around your partner's neck and start swaying, as though you were slow dancing. This is also a good position for a back rub.


Woman in labor rocking while seated

During labor, rhythmic motions can be soothing. Gently rock while sitting on a sturdy chair, the edge of the bed or a birthing ball — a large rubber ball.

Leaning forward

Woman in labor leaning forward against a chair

If your back hurts during labor, leaning forward might feel good. Straddle a chair or lean over a table or countertop. This is another good position for a back rub.


Woman in labor lunging against a chair

Lunging might relieve discomfort in your lower back. You might try leaning forward while standing up. Raise one foot on a sturdy chair. Gently lean toward the raised foot during the next contraction. If a chair is too high for comfort, use a footstool.


Woman in labor kneeling on birthing ball

Sometimes kneeling helps ease back pain. Kneeling while leaning forward can also help open your pelvis. Use a birthing ball or pile of pillows for support. In the hospital, raise the head of the bed. Kneel on the lower part of the bed while resting your arms and upper body on the top of the bed.


Woman in labor squatting against a chair

Squatting helps open your pelvis, giving your baby more room to rotate as he or she moves through the birth canal. Squatting also might allow you to bear down more effectively when it's time to push. Use a sturdy chair or squatting bar on the birthing bed for support. You can also squat against a wall.

On hands and knees

Woman in labor on hands and knees

Don't be embarrassed to get on your hands and knees during labor. Try it in bed or on a floor mat. You'll take the pressure off your spine, which might ease back pain, and kneeling while leaning forward can open your pelvis. A hands-and-knees position might boost your baby's oxygen supply as well. To give your arms a break, lower your shoulders to the bed or floor mat and place your head on a pillow.

Lying on your side

Woman in labor lying on her side

To give yourself a rest in the first stage of labor, lie on your side. Keep one or both knees bent. Place a pillow between your knees for comfort. You might also wedge a pillow under your belly.

Remember, there's no perfect position for labor. Try a variety of positions. Discuss your preferences with your health care provider ahead of time — but be flexible. You might need to experiment during labor to find the most effective positions.

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