The Best Birth Positions | What are the best Labor & Birth Positions? {that’ll help me have less pain & a faster labor}


Common sense tells us lying on your back is the best way to give birth, 
cause that’s how hospitals & doctors have wanted us giving birth for years.

Well hold your horses mama.

What if there was an easier, faster & less painful way to let your baby outta your womb? And all the research & evidence you want backs it up.

Let’s get old school. Think back to elementary school science class and that whole thing about “gravity.” (Quick review: gravity is that “invisible force” naturally pulling things down towards the ground.). So when a mama is lying on her back pushing, she’s not using gravity to help her birth that baby, she’s actually pushing against gravity.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take all the “invisible” help I can get. Wouldn’t you? There have to be other reasons why giving birth on your back has been the “go to” birthing position…right?

Yes. And we’ll get to those in a minute.

First, let’s chat about what research says are THE BEST labor & birth positions. Barbara Harper (who is a registered nurse, midwife, founder of Waterbirth International and author of “Gentle Birth Choices” & who travels the world training doctors & hospitals) explains that any position where the mama is upright is optimal. But more importantly, any position the mama feels most comfortable is best. (Barbara teaches you what many birthing classes never tell you right here.


Because being upright during labor:

1. Helps the muscles of your uterus work more efficiently to pull open your uterus (dilate) during contractions (or as Barbara likes to say “expansions”).

2. Allows your sacrum to move in the 6 different ways it’s able to move during labor- allowing baby more room to move through your pelvis. It can widen by as much as 30%! {think faster & less painful labor}

3. Works with gravity instead of against it. Muscles working against gravity (when lying down) fatigue & ache faster.

4. Baby’s head dropping in your pelvis puts pressure directly on cervix and helps speed up dilation (which means the opening of your cervix allowing baby to enter the birth canal).

5. More oxygen gets to baby due to better positioning of the heart’s large artery called “descending aorta.”

6. Less pressure on sacrum (houses pelvic nerves), which means no direct pressure on the nerves, which means less pain.

7. Less chance of tearing because perineal tissues can expand evenly around baby’s head instead of greater pressure directly on perineum when lying down. Check out the Evidence here, which comes from the US Cochrane Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (Learn how to protect your perineum right here)

If upright positions are the bomb diggity, why aren’t they common practice?

Great question. We’re glad you asked.

Historically, women worldwide gave birth using many of the upright positions we describe below. Then doctors burst on the birth scene and since they were all men, women had to be, well, “ladylike” when giving birth, so that meant lying on one’s back. We’re not dissing on Docs. That’s history people. And that “positioning” stuck.

Today, women are often hooked-up to the “continuous electronic fetal monitoring” machine right when they get in the hospital room, which requires them to stay lying down in bed (we talk more about continuous electronic fetal monitoring here, because the evidence does not support its use for normal birth).

Also, women who opt to use epidurals during labor must be attached to fetal monitors, IVs, blood pressure cuffs and can’t usually feel the bottom half of their bodies- so being in any position other than the back is logistically impossible. (check out our interview with Ob/Gyn & former doula & childbirth educator Dr. Tami Michele about the inside scoop on Epidurals here)

you mind can be a constraint to your bodyWhat are upright positions?

Pretty much you can use your imagination and come up with whatever position works for you. Here are some common ones that women use:

  •  Kneeling
  •  On all fours
  •  Squatting/crouching
  •  Sitting on the toilet
  • Leaning over the sides of a birthing tub
  •  Leaning over the sides of a birthing ball
  •  Leaning over the bed
  •  Sitting on a birthing stool
  •  Dangling from your birth support (or holding onto a rope attached to ceiling)

Do you feel the Elephant in the room?

If you’re like us, we thought birthing upright was just downright weird (and slightly hippieish):). After looking at the Evidence Based Research & having talked with tons of women who’ve done both…”the weirdness” changed to “holy crap why didn’t my birthing class ever freakin’ tell me about this”.  If less painful labor, faster labor & less chance of tearing or Episiotomy after labor interests you, it might be worth exploring more.


When it comes to laboring… moving around & switching positions has been proven to keep labor moving forward more effectively than lying down (for most women). It’s hard to predict beforehand which positions will feel good to you, so know a few, try ’em out to see what works and what your body & baby responds to.

Even if you’re banking on having an epidural, you’ll (most likely) have to do some laboring at home first & sometimes the epidurals don’t work. Knowing about these positions & using them can really help to decrease your pain & decrease the time it’ll take for your baby to be born. They work Mama & you can do it!

Check out our interview with Barbara Harper on “the best birth positions for less pain and faster labor“.

“Nature and wisdom are never at strife” Plutarch click to tweet 

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