Upright Positions for Labor, Upright Positions for Birth
According to the United Nations About 385,000 babies are born every day, that’s an incredible 140 million a year. So, it is safe to say that for millions of mothers around the world knowing as much as they can and making labor and giving birth as safe and as easy as possible is a top priority!
Using a variety of birth positions and having an active labor where upright positions are included can have many benefits for birthing women and their babies when they are giving birth and being born.
Throughout history an upright birthing position and the use of a birthing stool or birthing chair was common in many cultures from the ancient Egyptians, the Aztecs, Medieval Europeans and in many African cultures! As far back as written records, carvings and paintings go, women have given birth in an upright position – whether it was using stacked bricks to create a type of birthing stool, a wooden seat or holding onto leaves and ropes hung from trees. There is even a famous drawing from Egypt that shows Cleopatra (69-30 BC) kneeling to give birth.
Historical documents show that laying down to give birth is a relatively modern practice as childbirth has become more medicalised. Giving birth laying down may have been encouraged to make it easier for midwives and obstetricians to assist during labor and birth and for others present to have an easier view of the birth! It is widely reported that King Louis the XIV of France is believed to have enjoyed watching women give birth and was likely present in the room when his wife gave birth. However, it was the famed 17th-century French doctor François Mariceau who is generally credited with the practice of having women lie flat on their backs during birth. This has developed into the modern expectation that laying on your back or semi sitting with legs in the air is the ‘correct’ position for women to labor and give birth in.
Upright positions for labor include standing, sitting upright on a CUB birth stool or ball, squatting, kneeling and variations of kneeling, lunge position and all fours. Any one of these positions can also be used to give birth. It is important that your care providers and the people you choose to support you during childbirth know that you want to be upright, active, and mobile during labor as opposed to be confined to a hospital bed.
Why does an Upright Birthing Position Matter?
Many women report that giving birth when laying on their backs feels more painful, difficult, and uncomfortable than if they are free to move around and find positions that are more instinctive.
Studies have also shown that those that give birth in an upright position feel more in control of their birth and express greater satisfaction with their birthing experience. There is extensive research that shows the physical benefits for mothers and their babies when upright and active positions for birth are used and just some of these include:
“The central principle of an active birth, is for the woman to be free to move spontaneously and be led by her body, adopting upright positions during labour and birth. This practice is universal and cross-cultural and makes birth easier, safer, more efficient, and less painful.”
Janet Balaskas Pioneer of the Active Birth Movement
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