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Women are often advised to move around during early labor, and now research confirms that the advice makes sense. An analysis of 21 studies found that the first stage of labor—which lasts from the onset of regular contractions until the cervix is fully dilated—was about one hour shorter for women who remained upright, whether they kneeled, sat, stood, walked or even squatted.
That may not seem like much, but an hour is a significant amount of time when you’re in pain, says study author Annemarie Lawrence of the Institute of Women’s and Children’s Health in Douglas, Australia. Her analysis, which compared laboring women who reclined with those who remained upright, found no differences in the length of labor’s second stage, the mode of delivery or outcomes of the mothers and babies—though women who stayed upright in the first stage were 17 percent less likely to have an epidural.
Lying in bed offers no advantages. “Women who are upright and mobile can change positions more easily,” Lawrence says. “The ability to utilize a variety of positions may help reduce overall pain and give women a better sense of control over their labor’s progress.” — Shari Roan Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
How will you spend early labor? Weigh in at fitpregnancy.com/polls.