Think back to the last time you saw a birth scene on TV or in a movie. How was the woman positioned? Chances are, whether the woman was giving birth in a hospital or a cab, she was on her back. In reality, there are a variety of labor and birth positions that women can—and do—use.
Why We Birth on Our Backs
In the US, most women have their babies in a recumbent position, meaning lying down, according to the Journal of Family Practice. "From my experience, I don't believe women necessarily prefer the recumbent position," explains Jill Alliman a certified nurse midwife and the director of the Women's Wellness and Maternity Center in Madisonville, Tennessee. "It is just that, in most hospitals, women aren't given the options of an active and upright labor and birth."
A study conducted by Homebirth Australia and reported in their February 1994 newsletter noted that of women who were free to move around during childbirth, 82 percent chose positions other than on their back (nonrecumbent). "The position most commonly assumed by experienced birthers was hands and knees (28.2 percent); the one most frequently used by first-time birthers was squatting (36.2 percent).
A French study done by Alliance Francophone pour l'Accouchement Respecté (AFAR), or the French-speaking Alliance for the Respected Childbirth, in May of 2005 confirmed that upright or ambulatory birth positions are favorable for a variety of reasons, including fetal oxygenation. The study goes on to say, "the purported advantages of ambulation in the upright position during labor include enhancement of the pelvic diameter, increased coordination, frequency and intensity of uterine contractions, increased maternal comfort and satisfaction and improved neonatal outcome (higher Apgar scores), decreased perception of labor pain, decreased need for labor augmentation, and decreased requirements for labor analgesia."