Position Statement

The pros and cons of 11 common labor positions.


Movement and positioning in labor work magic. Movement enhances comfort by stimulating the receptors in the brain that decrease pain perception. The result is that you are able to tolerate increasingly strong contractions. When contractions become very strong, endorphins are released and pain perception decreases even more. Ultimately, your movement in response to your contractions decreases pain and facilitates labor – a win-win. Movement also helps the baby move through the pelvis, and some positions enlarge pelvic diameters.

The positions shown here facilitate the normal, natural process of labor. What position should you use? Follow your body. Move freely in response to what you feel. Your body will let you know just what position is best at every point in your labor.


Pros: Realigns your pelvis to increase the opening by up to 15 percent.

Allows you to be supported by your standing or sitting partner, the wall or a squat bar.

Takes advantage of gravity.

Makes contractions feel less painful and more productive.

Lengthens your trunk and helps your baby line up with the angle of your pelvis.

Movement causes changes in your pelvic joints, helping your baby through the birth canal.

May increase your urge to push in the second stage of labor.

Cons: Requires a strong partner.

May be tiring for both of you.


Pros: Comfortable.

Good use of gravity.

Good resting position.

Works well in hospital beds.

Good visibility at birth for your support team.

Easy access to fetal heart tones for your health-care provider.

Cons: Access to your perineum can be poor.

Mobility of your coccyx is impaired.

Puts some stress on your perineum but less than when lying on your back.


Pros: Good for resting.

Uses gravity.

Can be used with continuous electronic fetal monitoring.

Cons: May not be possible if you have high blood pressure.


Pros: Helps relax perineum.

You get used to an open-leg position and pelvic pressure.

Uses gravity.

Cons: Pressure from toilet seat may be uncomfortable.


Pros: Encourages rapid descent.

Uses gravity.

May increase rotation of baby.

Allows freedom to shift your weight for comfort.

Allows excellent perineal access.

Excellent for fetal circulation.

May increase pelvis diameter by as much as 2 centimeters.

Requires less bearing-down effort.

Descent is encouraged by the position.

Your thighs keep baby well aligned.

Cons: Often tiring.

Sometimes hard for health-care provider to hear fetal heart tones.

May be hard for you to assist in birth if you wish to do so.


Pros: Helps get oxygen to the baby.

Good resting position.

Helpful if you have elevated blood pressure.

Fine with epidural.

Can make contractions more effective.

Easier for you to relax between contractions during the second stage.

Can slow a birth that's moving too fast.

Your partner can assist in the birth by supporting your legs.

Lowers chances of tearing or the need for episiotomy.

Good access to perineum.

Cons: May be hard for health-care provider to access fetal heart tones.

No help from gravity.

If no one can hold your legs, you must support them on your own.

You may feel too passive in this position.


Pros: Uses gravity.

Contractions are often less painful.

Baby is well aligned in your pelvis.

May speed labor.

Reduces backache.

Encourages descent.

Cons: Not recommended if you have high blood pressure.

Cannot be used with continuous electronic fetal monitoring.


Pros: Uses gravity.

Helps get oxygen to the baby.

Contractions are more effective and less painful.

May speed labor.

Helps create a pushing urge.

Cons: Poor control at birth.

Hard for health-care provider to see the baby.



Pros: Can help shift the baby if needed.

Uses gravity.

Birth ball can be used.

Contractions are often less painful and more productive.

Baby is well aligned in your pelvis.

Relieves backache.

Easier for your partner to help relieve your back pain.

May be more restful than standing.

Good for pelvic rocking.

Less strain on your wrists and arms.

Cons: Hard for health-care provider to help with birth.


Pros: Good for back labor.

Assists with rotation of baby, if needed.

Takes pressure off hemorrhoids.

Good position to avoid tearing or episiotomy.

Good delivery position for large baby.

Helpful if fetal heart tones are low.

Cons: Hard for your support team to maintain eye contact with you.

Hard for you to see what's going on.


Cons: Works against gravity.

Compresses all major vessels.

Tearing or need for an episiotomy is more likely.

No use of gravity to aid in birth.

Giving Birth with Confidence, the online community created by Lamaze International, provides articles and tips written for and by real women (and men) on a variety of topics related to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting. Their goal is to help women achieve healthy pregnancies and safe, satisfying births by offering a meeting ground to obtain information and support from other women, Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educators and knowledgeable experts.