Being active in labour


The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) promotes the use of different positions to enable labouring women to feel comfortable and to help labour to flow. They have created a series of images to illustrate the different positions that are known to be helpful during labour and birth.

The RCM site states: “Gravity is the greatest aid in giving birth, but for historical reasons (now obsolete) in this society we now make women give birth on their backs. This resource can be used to help women understand and practice alternative positions antenatally, feel free to be mobile and try different positions during labour and birth.”

The key to using positions and movement in labour is to listen to your body to you can move and rest as you need to and to get yourself as comfortable as possible…


get comfy and let your body do what it needs to do…

ball positionball/sling position

You can sit on a ball or a chair to be upright. For support you can lean on someone or use a chair, a bed or a sling.

standing position

leaning positionIf you want to move about you can lean on someone for support or you might want to lean into the wall

Birth pool position

bath position

If you want to be in water – a birthing pool or a bath can help you to feel comfortable and safe

Positions to rest and conserve your energy

resting position

chair position Resting position

resting position

chair position

It is important to conserve your energy in labour – so if you want to rest, find a position which helps you feel as comfortable as possibe. 

If it is comfy to lie down – do that for a while. Otherwise you may need to find positions where your whole body can be supported so you can rest.



If your baby is being monitored


standing/monitoring position

ball/monitoring position

If your baby is being continously monitored, you don’t need to stay on the bed. It is just as important to use positions to stay comfortable and to encourage your body to do what it needs to do to contract well.



 Other useful positions

bed position


If you have had an epidural and you need to stay on the bed – use gravity by sitting as upright as you can to keep you comfortable and to help your baby move down through the pelvis



squat position


If you need to squat, you may need to be supported by someone or you may need to hold on a chair or the bed.




stairs position

 It can useful to walk up and down some stairs if your contractions have slowed down or if your baby is not quite in the right position – the movement and being upright will encourage contractions and will enable your baby to turn into a better position for labour and birth.


Staying upright and moving around in labour can be so instinctive and essential to managing your contractions, staying comfortable and staying in control. 

 It can also be useful to start thinking about labour positions in pregnancy. There’s nothing complicated about it – just get off the sofa and become familiar with different positions, so watch a bit of telly using a birth ball. Women in labour will often choose what they think is expected of them and are less likely to assume positions they are not familiar with, especially because the media images are of women lying down on a bed. Preparation during pregnancy can help to change this behaviour and provide an opportunity to try different positions for labour, which can help lessen the pain of the contractions (Reference: MIDIRS. 2008. Positions in labour and delivery)


 To prepare for the birth of your baby, get in touch:

 Janine Smith | Birth, Baby & Family
A specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting