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Optimal Labor Positions

CNM Anne Margolis talks about Optimal Labor Positions. Subscribe to Ask the Midwife Newsletter:

Modern day medicine and common hospital birth experiences lead many women to believe that birthing on the back is standard and optimal. But it was never standard before birth was moved to the hospitals in some localities in the early 1900s, nor is it a naturally assumed birthing position around the globe today. It may be optimal for the attending care provider to control the delivery, but it is not at all optimal for the healthy mom or baby whose birth does not need to be controlled.

Using gravity, a woman can assume positions that are more comfortable, help the baby navigate its way down and out, prevent tearing, lower the risk of complications and optimize her birth experience.

When it comes to optimal labor positions, the most important component is for a woman to listen to her body. Unless directed otherwise because of a problem, intuitive instinct and what feels best will align a woman with her best laboring and birthing positions.

In general, activity alternated with rest is best.

1.)    Rest

2.)    Move

3.)    Repeat

Changing positions is important to keep the good energy and flow going, and gradually keep baby moving downwards.

My Online LOVE YOUR BIRTH Course is a great resource to learn about optimal labor positions in greater depth, and to not only rock your birth but love your experience wherever you birth and however it unfolds. You can purchase it here

A Note About Music

I always suggest to my families to make a few playlists. They can include those that are:

1.)    Spa like – soothing and relaxing

2.)    Slow dancing with a sensual feel

3.)    Upbeat or tribal

Many of the mamas I have worked with have danced their way through labor!

Movements that can help (Heading)

The Side – If a woman feels like taking a rest, she can lie on her side, rather than her back, which causes the pelvis to have a smaller diameter. She can use pillows and receive help from a partner or doula to get most comfortable.

I suggest alternating between sides periodically,  while raising the bent leg at different intervals and resting it on a pillow.

Child’s Pose – This is one of my favorites, as mama’s tend to assume a form of it naturally and find it most comfortable! It’s a resting pose used in yoga. I especially love the restorative supportive child’s pose, where a woman’s knees are open, she rests her buttocks on her heels and her forehead on a pillow or sofa cushion.

Periodically, a woman can take a knee up and rest on her hands on the floor, rocking back and forth.

(1)Photo by Kindred Photographer (2) Photo by Debbie Disch

Hands and knees – On her hands and knees, a woman can also rock back and forth, circle her pelvis and move it side to side. Her knees can be on a padding, for more comfort. This allows her to move around and get into the music. She can rotate her hips, move side to side, and raise her leg up on each side intermittingly, lunging in and out.

Some women prefer kneeling on their knees, with their torso more upright. Her knees may be on a pillow or padding on the floor, a chair, birth ball, or lean into a partner who is sitting on a chair. She can also kneel on a sofa or bed and she can lean forward with her hands resting on the wall, the furniture’s back or a birthing tub. There are many ways to kneel comfortably.

Hips in motion to the music can be a great way to labor, and a woman can do this while kneeling or standing.


Sitting – Towards the end, many women want to sit on the toilet. This is where they feel most comfortable and private and in position to push and birth.

Other sitting positions throughout labor may include:

·         On a birth ball

·         While leaning into her partner

·         With knees bent

·         Cross legged

·         In a supported squat

·         On yoga blocks

·         Back to back with partner

Photo by Kindred Photographer

Standing – I use dancing a lot!

Dancing may be:

·         Slow sensual dancing with partner, either facing each other, side to side or back to back

·         A woman and her partner rocking back and forth with one another

·         Sexy and with hip hop or tribal music

A woman may find it best to stand facing a wall, with her hands on the wall, or another high surface, like a dresser. Her hips can sway side to side, and periodically, she lifts her leg up on each side interchangeably and rest her foot on a stool or chair.

Photo Credit – Andrea Garcia of Final Touch Photography

Squatting – Some women prefer a low seated squat, or to use a squatting rope in a standing supportedor dangling squat.

When a woman is squatting, I usually have her lean back a little bit, into her partner for support if she is pushing, to minimize tearing.

Many women love to birth while squatting.

This is a great squatting stool!

 Photo Credit - The Art of Unscripted

Photo by @h2o_byheatherlynn

Photo by @h2o_byheatherlynn

Photo Credit - @H20_ByHeatherLynn

An ideal labor position is one where a woman feels most comfortable or drawn to. Many positions happen naturally, as she instinctually knows how to move.  And what position feels best, is usually the position that helps get baby birthed more easily.

Again, you can find greater in depth information for optimal labor positions and more in my Online Love Your Birth Course.

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

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