Birthing positions

You may find that certain positions are more comfortable than others during the second stage of labor. Speak to your health professional about different birthing positions before your labor begins.

Changing positions often during labor is a good idea.

  • Sitting in an upright position during labor may be more comfortable than lying down. Sitting on a "birthing ball," which is typically used for physical therapy or exercise, can comfortably help your back and pelvis stay loose while supporting the area between your vagina and anus (perineum).
  • Kneeling, getting down on your knees and hands, or leaning onto a birthing ball may help to take pressure off your back. This position might help with back labor.
  • Squatting may help you push more effectively.
  • Lying on your back in a semi-reclining position with your legs supported by stirrups is a common birthing position used in the United States. While pushing, your health professional may have you grab behind your knees and pull up.
  • Lying on your side is helpful if you are tired of lying on your back.

Some birthing centers use a birthing stool or chair during the second stage of labor. A birthing chair may make you feel more comfortable. One study has demonstrated a higher incidence of heavy bleeding in women who used a birthing chair (sitting compared with delivering in bed), and in another birthing chair study women had no unusual bleeding problems.1

Laboring in water

Some hospitals and birthing centers offer tubs or whirlpools for early active laboring (though not normally for pushing and delivering). If your hospital does, talk to your health professional about laboring in water. The warm water supports your body and helps you to relax. Among large groups of women, this has been proven to:1

  • Reduce labor pain.
  • Reduce the use of or need for pain medication.
  • Lower the mother's blood pressure.
  • Help some women move along a slow labor and avoid a need for forceps, vacuum, or cesarean delivery.2

Some time before you are ready to push your baby out, you will have help to move from the tub or whirlpool.


  1. Cunningham FG, et al. (2005). Dystocia: Abnormal labor. In Williams Obstetrics, 22nd ed., pp. 495–524. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Cluett ER, et al. (2004). Randomised controlled trial of labouring in water compared with standard of augmentation for management of dystocia in first stage of labour. BMJ, 328(7435): 314–320.

Last Updated: January 7, 2010

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