What do I need to know about birthing positions?

Here's what you need to know about birthing positions

All you need to know about birthing positions

Read our guide on the positions to help with your contractions and birth

Woman in labour birthing pool

Today, women in labour are encouraged to move around and adopt whatever position feels most natural to them. And there are a fair few to choose from. We take a look at some of the most popular positions women choose. 

Birthing positions 

On all fours

Getting down onto your hands and knees when giving birth is popular for some women and you can choose to be on the bed or on a floor mat. The pros of this position are that it takes pressure off your spine and can ease any back pain you are experiencing. It can also boost your baby’s oxygen levels. A con to choosing this position is that your arms may get tired after a while.


Some women feel the need to sit down when baby’s weight is bearing down. Sitting on a birthing chair or even on the toilet and spreading your legs can help to relieve some of the pressure on your pelvis. The pros of this position are that it can be a comfortable choice to have a rest during labour and a foetal monitoring machine can still track your baby’s heart rate. It can also help to relax the perineum, which may help reduce tearing. The downside is that sitting on a hard surface such as the toilet seat can become uncomfortable quite quickly and you may be advised not to adopt this position if you’ve had high blood pressure during your pregnancy.

Using the birthing ball

You can sit on the birthing ball or you may also choose a different position using the birthing ball as an aid. They support you as you move around and for those who feel comfortable rocking while in labour, the birthing ball can be a real help. The pros of using a birthing ball include that it can help move baby into a good birthing position and it can help to reduce pressure on your back. Birthing balls are also known to encourage your cervix to dilate and move baby deeper into the pelvis. The cons of using a birthing ball include keeping your balance when using it and you may find you need continuous help from your birthing partner to stay in the position you find helpful.


Squats can feel really comfortable when in labour and can help to open the pelvis and give baby room to manoeuvre into the birth canal. You can do squats against a wall or with the support of a chair or partner. The downside is this may become tiring after a while particularly on your legs. 

Lying on your side

This is a great choice when you need a rest. But it can also help your baby move into a good birthing position. This position can help get oxygen to your baby and can be advised if you have suffered with high blood pressure during your pregnancy. This position also helps you  to relax during contractions. The cons of this position can be that it might be difficult for a midwife to assess foetal heartbeat.


You may choose to stand, walk or sway while you’re in labour as being vertical can help gravity do its job. The pros of this position include it can help to relieve backache and can make contractions feel less painful as well as encouraging baby to move deeper into the birth canal. The downside of the upright position is that you may be discouraged from this position if you have suffered with high blood pressure and a telemetry unit will be needed to continuously monitor foetal heart rate.

And lunge

You can put your foot up on a chair to help you do lunges that may feel comfortable in labour. If you lean your body forward onto your raised foot when you feel a contraction coming on and repeat it as many times as it helps. The pros of lunges in labour include that it can help your baby rotate or descend towards the birthing canal and can help to open the pelvis which will give your baby more room. Your will need your birthing partner to help you keep your balance.


Reclining is a popular choice when a well-deserved break is needed. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to lie down in bed, you can also recline against a wall, a chair or your birthing partner if you wish. This position can help to release tension and relax your muscles. Can also be a good option if you are tired but don’t want to completely lie down. The downside of this position is it can work against gravity.

Kneeling down

This can be a really helpful position if your baby is facing your abdomen instead of your back. This position can help your baby to turn into the right position. The pros of kneeling in labour are that it can help to relieve some of the pain of contractions and eases the pressure on your back. This may however be a difficult position for your midwife to monitor the foetus. 

Cons of using a bed for your birthing position

The recommendation not to have labour in a bed is because lying down can:

  • Make contractions more painful, and so increase the chance you’ll need to have an epidural
  • Make your labour longer, as if you’re upright gravity can help push your baby’s head down onto your cervix to help it open
  • Could increase chances of having a caesarean 
  • A greater likelihood that your baby may need special care
  • Narrow the passage through the pelvis for your baby

What other birthing positions can you be in?

When labour starts you may feel restless, and it’s advisable to have short rests in the chair or lie down when you have milder contractions. When these begin to get more intense it’s important to remember your breathing as well as think about your position. 

What do I need to know about birthing positions?