The 5 Best Positions to Get Into Active Labour

As a mom with four kids, I’ve experienced unmedicated vaginal birth twice. It wasn’t necessarily my choice but the hospital that I gave birth in was very small and they didn’t do epidurals or caesareans. I was young, healthy and had low-risk pregnancies so I was a great candidate for them. Basically, you went into labour and went to the hospital where they would call your family doctor to come and deliver the baby. They were the greatest, most hands-off hospital births I’ve ever experienced.

With so many women planning to have epidurals now, getting into positions that encourage the baby to move down the birth canal and progress labour may not be on everyone’s mind. But here’s the thing about epidurals: you have to be in active labour to have one. In order to get into active labour, you may need to use gravity to get the baby’s head pressing against the cervix.


With that in mind, here are the 5 best positions for getting into active labour. You never know, once you get there you may not want an epidural after all!


Slow dancing (Uses gravity and support of your partner)

Hold onto your partner and sway your hips, dance and/or slowly bounce. Slow dancing is especially effective for pain management in labour because the closeness to your partner will release endorphins, a hormone that mimics the same effects as morphine. Being upright with your partner to lean on gives you the benefit of gravity and comfort.


 Leaning forward (Let's you rest while still using gravity)

Get onto your knees in the bed and hold onto the head of the bed or hang your upper body over a birth ball. This gives your legs a rest while using gravity to keep the baby moving. It is also great to sway your hips with lots of support. Use a pillow to lean against for extra comfort.


 Hands and Knees (On All Fours) (Great for back labour)

This is the bomb for back labour pain. Get onto all fours, on the bed. Arch your back and drop your belly, alternately, for some relief of back discomfort. This is also great if your baby is taking a long time to move past your pubic bone, later in labour.


 Birth Ball (Almost like squatting but with support)

The birth ball is a no-brainer. It uses gravity because you’re sitting, allows for lots of pelvic and hip movement to shimmy the baby down and it opens your pelvis. A lot of women find it hard to balance into a squat while they’re in labour so the birth ball is a good alternative. Place the ball at the side of the bed and hold onto the bed while your partner supports your back so you don’t roll away.


 Stairs (Great for back labour and helping baby turn)

No, I’m not going to suggest that you start running the stairs. But if your labour has been hard on your back or if your dilation has slowed down a bit, you can use the stairs to squat against. This encourages the baby to rotate. So, face the bottom of the stairs. Put one foot on the second stair up while your partner supports you. Now squat forward during your contractions. Repeat legs to see which one feels best.


 Hanging (Encourages standing and/or squatting)

One of the hospitals that I’ve worked in put grab-bars high on the wall so a woman in labour can hold them to hang from or use a rope or rebozo (a very large scarf) to squat from. Not everyone enjoys this in labour because it can be hard to balance and tiring for leg muscles, but squatting really opens up the pelvis and makes room for the baby to come down. I used squat bars attached to the birthing bed to help my babies come down and that was nice because I could rest in between contractions.


My favourite part about working with women in labour and delivery is that when a woman is unhindered by medications or interventions, her body instinctively knows what positions to get into. It’s the most incredible thing to watch a woman tune into herself in labour!

So don’t be shy, Mama- listen to your body in labour and use the positions that help you guide that baby down and out!


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Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup

Hey there, I’m Joanne.

I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!

As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.

Still with me? Join me over at MamaSoup to keep the conversation going!

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