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Five Reasons Why It Is Important to Change Position While in Labor

Women have been birthing babies since the beginning of time. As we can see from the media, there are many positions that women get into as part of labor and even into delivery. Doing what feels good and comfortable helps relieve pain and can even speed up the delivery process.

It is a misconception that all women need to be in bed and hooked to the fetal monitor at all times. Every hospital is different but it is important to ask such questions when looking for a hospital that will fit your needs. Now, if you are choosing a Home Birth or a birth at a Birthing Center, these rules will be very different. Below you will find 5 reasons why it is important to change positions while in labor.

1-Helps Baby Get into Optimal Position

The optimal position for the baby to be in for delivery is head down, facing the mothers back. I really wish I could say that all babies are in this position before labor starts, but I can’t. Every baby and every woman’s body is different. It is important to be aware of what position your baby is in before labor starts so that you can have enough time to correct it if needed. Your doctor, midwife and anyone with proper training can help you to determine where your baby is laying. The website www.spinningbabies.com can help you belly map your baby’s position as well.

2- Relieves Labor Pain

I have been a Labor Doula since 2002. It has been my experience that laboring women instinctively relieve pain and pressure by changing their position. Some positions I have questioned how comfortable it could be, others I have wondered how on earth they could stay in that position for so long! Either way it was working for them and that is all that mattered. Encouraging mothers to get into whatever position they need to get into is very important to relieve pain and facilitate comfort.

3- Keeps Laboring Mother Distracted

I used to joke to others that my job as a Doula was 80% distraction. Distraction is an excellent tool to help keep the mother motivated, focused and comfortable. Changing positions is an action that the mother has control over and can help her feel successful. As labor gets longer and closer to delivery it is easy for the mother to get frustrated as her attention span shortens along with her cervix. We need to be prepared to give lots of options to the laboring mother to see what we can do to help relieve labor pain and help the baby get engaged into the pelvis.

4- Speeds up Delivery

There is a saying I say to my clients, “Open hands, open mouth = open vagina.” A tense mother in labor isn’t going to deliver a baby anytime soon. It’s when she finds her inner (and outer) rhythm that labor starts to progress. Gravity, and I can’t say this one enough, is a fantastic tool! Yet as mother gets more tired it is easy to overlook it as an option. Always try to find different ways for gravity to help you. Get your clients up and moving! There will be times when this is contraindicated, but for the most part it is very natural and encouraged to facilitate labor progression. When a mother feels more comfortable and her pain is relieved (even for a short time), labor progresses. Listen to your clients! For the most part they know exactly what position they want to get into that will feel good. For the new mommy’s we can suggest positions that have helped others in the past.

5- Use Positioning to Provide More Oxygen to the Baby

Never lay a laboring mother on her back.  I know I just talked about gravity in a positive light but now I am going to talk about a time when it is contraindicated. In movies, TV shows and other Media, we see those laboring woman on their back and heaven help them pushing those babies out while lying flat. Lying flat is contraindicated from late pregnancy and going forward to delivery. Laying flat causes the baby to put pressure on a major blood vessel which decreases the mother’s blood pressure.  This in turn leads to the baby not getting enough oxygen which can lead to all sorts of medical interventions. The optimal laying position for a pregnant mother is on her left side because this facilitates blood and nutrients to the baby.

Click for Free Handout on Supporting Instinctive Pushing

Follow Rachel Leavitt:

Rachel has worked as a register nurse (BSN from University of Utah) since 2004 with a work history in Labor and Delivery, NICU and Postpartum Care. She is also the founder of New Beginnings Doula Training which she organized in 2011. When she's not busy being a mother and grandmother, she can be found reading research papers related to some aspect of childbirth.

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