Most of us are aware of women giving birth on their backs (known as the lithotomy position) or in a semi-sitting position (with the back of the bed tilted upwards so the woman is basically sitting up).
While there are advantages to the semi-sitting position, the traditional “on the back” position has several distinct disadvantages including compressing all major blood vessels consequently increasing maternal blood pressure, and reducing oxygen saturation levels in babies by up to 91 percent among other things. (4)
There are many other birthing positions that offer significant advantages to both mother and baby.
Standing, Walking and Sitting Birthing Positions
Standing - This position provides good oxygen levels for the baby and takes advantage of gravity, resulting in more effective contractions. (1)
If your labor is progressing slowly — such as with a brow presentation (see < a href= http://www.homebirth.net.au/2008/06/millas-birth-brow-presentation.html>Milla’s birth story) — standing can help move it along. Standing also results in a good urge to push.
Obvious disadvantages are that delivery is difficult to control, it is difficult for the doctor, midwife or nurse to see what’s going on, and there are concerns that the placenta can tear away from the uterus too quickly. (1, 4)
Walking - Walking during labor can reduce the pain of contractions, allows the contracting muscles to work more efficiently, and keeps the baby ideally aligned in the pelvis. Walking can help labor progress and reduce backache. Those with high blood pressure may not be able walk if continuous monitoring is required. (1, 2)
Sitting (Chair or Toilet) - Sitting, like standing and walking, makes use of the force of gravity in helping the progress of the baby through the birth canal.
A birth ball can also be used. A birthing chair allows a mother to rest where her back, hips and thighs are supported. Sitting may not be an option for women with high blood pressure.
Side Lying and Leaning/Kneeling