Everything you need to know about labour positions
Labour & birth

Everything you need to know about labour positions

Midwife Tracy Donegan gives advice on the best labour positions to help you through.

Changing positions during labour can help to ease your baby’s journey into the world and also makes the process a lot more comfortable for mum too.

Everything you need to know about labour positions

There is an old Jamaican midwife’s saying, “the baby will not be born until the mother opens her back”. In other words when mum is upright, the pelvis opens and we make the exit for baby about 30% larger. It makes sense to make baby’s exit as easy as possible. Being upright and mobile in active labour (6cm) means mum is maximising the use of gravity and optimising blood flow to that amazing muscle doing all the work. You’re also providing lots of oxygen for your baby. Being on the bed reduces oxygen to your baby, the uterus and can make labour more painful and more challenging for your baby, especially in the pushing stage as your baby is having to move uphill against gravity to get under the pubic arch (think of the bend in a welly boot) and how your foot has to be angled in a certain way to get it in.

Trust your body’s intuition

Often mums ask which is the best position to labour in and I tell them “your baby and body will tell you”…. Just like when you get uncomfortable sitting in one position too long….or in bed at night…you don’t need anyone to instruct you on what feels best – there’s very little thinking involved you just do what feels rig ht and shift your position. Being upright also means we’re ‘hacking our hormones’ to reduce stress hormones and increase testosterone (associated with confidence). Being upright means mums feel more in control. Sometimes, monitoring can make being mobile more challenging for staff but that’s their worry, not yours yours – staff almost always facilitate monitoring while mum sits on the ball or stands.

Everything you need to know about labour positions


All fours

If baby has moved into a less than optimal position and you’re experiencing back labour, the knee the knee chest (all fours) position is great. Being on all fours means your partner can apply counter pressure on your lower back if you are experiencing back labour. Forward-leaning versions can also help if mum is healthy and well – www.spinningbabies.com has some great videos to encourage baby into a more optimal position.

Pushing position – whatever is easiest

When it comes to pushing, choose whatever position feels best for you, but your partner may need to facilitate with staff for positions other than on your back in the bed. Squatting sounds ideal, but most mums haven’t had a lot of practice training those muscles to support you. A birth stool can be really helpful if this position feels good for you and if there’s no birth stool available getting into a supported squat position between your partners knees is amazing.

The peanut ball

Mums can still change position even with an epidural and the use of a little known magical labour tool call the ‘peanut ball’. With a light epidural, mums can even give birth upright leaning over the back of the bed. At the moment only the Coombe uses the peanut ball – but you can purchase them online and bring it with you if you are planning on having an epidural.

For mums with pelvic girdle pain be sure to let the staff know especially if you have an epidural to protect your pelvis from any damage in labour as you won’t feel if your legs are overextended.

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Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.



Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.