Aiming for a natural birth experience? You don’t have to take it lying down. Upright positions may help you labor faster and deliver your baby sooner because you’re not working against gravity, says Mayer Eisenstein, M.D., an obstetrician in Chicago. Being upright helps move your baby down into your pelvis, and the pressure of his head against your cervix encourages dilation. Standing also helps expand your pelvic inlet, the bony opening through which your baby’s head first passes. If you choose to have an epidural, you’ll probably have to lie down at that point, but some of these positions may also be useful before then. Here are four to try:
Mavis Dickerson, of Garrison, IA, says her favorite labor position was sitting up with her knees bent and leaning against her husband. "With Ed as my pillow, I could relax between contractions.”
On Hands and Knees
Women who experience back pain during labor can relieve some of the pressure of the baby on their tailbone and lower spine by being on all fours.
When the time comes to push, squatting can be very effective. One study found a significantly lower rate of forceps deliveries among women who squatted and a much shorter second stage of labor than women who were lying down. Why? Just as standing opens the pelvic inlet, squatting widens the pelvic outlet—the opening at the bottom of her pelvis. Since a woman's muscles aren't always up to the task, some hospitals offer birthing chairs.
Connie Humberston, of Shillington, PA, discovered what she calls the "defensive basketball position." Standing with her feet apart and her knees flexed, she held onto her husband and pushed while the nurse-midwife caught the baby. "I felt like I was working with nature," she says.
Karen Miles is a freelance writer.