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Staying active and upright positions during labour

Being upright during labour can shorten how long your labour may take. Being upright means any position that avoids lying flat. Learn about the benefits of staying upright during labour.

Being active during labour can distract you from any discomfort you may be feeling. It can also shorten the duration of your labour.

You may feel the urge to stay upright and to move around. Listen to your body.

Being upright means using any position that avoids lying flat.

Benefits of staying upright during labour

Gravity will help your baby move down the birth passage. Pregnant women who are upright and active need less pain relief or interventions to get the baby out. Your baby will get a better oxygen supply and will be in a better position when you are upright.

Better contractions and less pain

When you are upright, your womb tilts forward during contractions. This means you will have better contractions and less pain. Contractions are stronger and more effective when you are upright. This could mean your labour is shorter.

Wider birth canal

The lower part of your spine can move better when you are upright. This means the birth canal can widen and make room for the baby's head. Pelvic joints can expand and move which means less pressure on nerves.

Walking in labour

Walking in labour may help to shorten the early phase of labour. When labour is more established, you might need support to walk between contractions.

The 'slow dance' position

The 'slow dance' is a childbirth position that may help. Put your arms around your birth partner's neck and shoulders. Your birth partner can apply counter pressure to any particular spot, or hold you. You can rock backwards and forwards, music may help.

Woman leaning into man - slow dance position
Slow dance position

Different positions using a birthing ball, mats and beanbags can help your baby move down the pelvis.

Ways to stay upright during labour

Staying upright includes:

  • standing
  • sitting backwards on a chair and leaning over a pillow on the top
  • on a birthing ball
  • kneeling
  • squatting
  • on all fours

You may not be able to stay upright if you:

  • had an epidural
  • have a drip
  • are connected to electronic monitors

To stay comfortable, ask your birth partner and midwife to help you change position.

Page last reviewed: 26/03/2018
Next review due: 26/03/2021