Skip to main content


Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

Skip section navigation

Giving birth: Positions for labor and birth


  • Standing takes advantage of gravity during and between contractions.
  • It makes contractions feel less painful and be more productive.
  • It helps your baby line up with the angle of your pelvis.
  • Standing may increase your urge to push in the second stage of labor.


  • Walking has the same advantages as standing.
  • The movement causes changes in the pelvic joints, helping your baby move through the birth canal.

Standing and leaning forward on partner, bed, birthing ball

  • This position has the same advantages as standing.
  • It is a good position for a backrub.
  • It may feel more restful than standing.
  • This position can be used with electronic fetal monitor.

Slow dancing

  • Stand with your arms around your partner's neck or at your side, head resting on his or her chest or shoulder, with his or her hands rubbing your lower back.
  • Sway to music and breathe in rhythm if it helps.
  • It has the same advantages as walking.
  • Back pressure helps relieve back pain.
  • Rhythm and music help you relax and provide comfort.

The lunge

  • Stand facing a straight chair.
  • Place one foot on the seat with your knee and foot to the side.
  • Bending raised knee and hip, lunge sideways repeatedly during a contraction, holding each lunge for 5 seconds.
  • Have your partner hold the chair and help with balance.
  • You'll feel a stretch in your inner thighs.
  • This position widens one side of the pelvis (the side toward which you lunge).
  • It encourages rotation of baby.
  • It can also be done in a kneeling position.

Sitting upright

  • This position is good position for resting.
  • It has more gravity advantage than lying down.
  • It can be used with electronic fetal monitor.

Sitting on toilet or commode

  • This position has the same advantages as sitting upright.
  • It may help relax the perineum for effective bearing down.


  • Set the head of the bed at a 45-degree angle with pillows used for support.
  • It has the same advantages as sitting upright.
  • This is an easy position if you're on a bed.

Rocking in a chair

  • This position has the same advantages as sitting upright.
  • Rocking movement may speed up labor.

Sitting, leaning forward with support

  • This position has the same advantages as sitting upright.
  • It is a good position for back rubs.

Kneeling on all fours

This position:

  • helps relieve backache
  • assists rotation of baby in posterior position
  • allows for pelvic rocking and body movement
  • takes pressure off hemorrhoids
  • still makes it possible to have vaginal exams
  • is sometimes preferred as a pushing position by women with back labor

Kneeling, leaning forward with support on a chair seat, the raised head of the bed, or on a birthing ball

This position:

  • has the same advantages as all fours position
  • puts less strain on the wrists and hands

Side lying

This position:

  • is a very good position for resting
  • is convenient for many kinds of medical interventions
  • helps lower elevated blood pressure
  • may promote progress of labor when alternated with walking
  • is useful to slow a very rapid second stage
  • takes pressure off hemorrhoids
  • facilitates relaxation between contractions


This position:

  • may relieve backache
  • takes advantage of gravity
  • requires less bearing down effort
  • widens pelvic outlet
  • may help baby turn and move down in a difficult birth
  • helps if you do not feel an urge to push
  • allows freedom to shift weight for comfort
  • offers an advantage when pushing, since upper trunk presses on the top of the uterus

Supported squat

  • Lean back against your partner, who supports you under the arms and takes all your weight.
  • Between contractions, stand up.
  • This requires great strength in your partner.
  • This lengthens your trunk, allowing more room for your baby to maneuver into position.
  • This lets gravity help.


  • Your partner sits on high bed or counter with feet supported on chairs or footrests and thighs spread.
  • You lean back between your partner's legs, placing your flexed arms over your partner's thighs.
  • Your partner grips your sides with his or her thighs.
  • You lower yourself, allowing your partner to support your full weight.
  • Between contractions, stand up.
  • This has the same advantages of a supported squat.
  • This requires less physical strength from your partner.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, ISBN 1-931876-14-2

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 08/15/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts