Walking and standing can shorten early labor

Want to help labor move along? Listen to your nurses and midwives and get on your feet!

Standing, walking, sitting, kneeling and using a birth bar (squat bar) or a birthing stool all can help labor progress. To give birth as efficiently as possible, there are benefits in working with your body — not lying on your back.

birth - sitting up in labor

More evidence that walking can progress labor

Cochrane Researchers found that the first stage of labor was significantly shorter for women who kneel, stand up, walk around, or sit upright as opposed to lying down.

Using data from 21 studies carried out in developed countries since the 1960s, involving 3,706 women, the researchers found that the first stage of labor was around an hour shorter in those who adopted upright positions compared to those who lay down.

“In most developing countries, women stand up or walk around as they wish during the early stages of birth with no ill effects,” says Annemarie Lawrence, who works at the Institute of Women’s and Children’s Health at the Townsville Hospital in Queensland, Australia. “This review demonstrates that there is some benefit and no risk to being upright and or mobile during first stage labor.”

>> Using an exercise ball during birth can have big benefits

“Based on these results, we would recommend that women are encouraged to use whichever positions they find most comfortable, but are specifically advised to avoid lying flat,” says Lawrence.

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“The position adopted naturally by women during birth… would try to avoid the dorsal position and was allowed to change position as and when she wished,” write the authors of a study from 2000.

labor on a birth ball“Different upright positions could be achieved using posts, slung hammock, furniture, holding on to a rope, knotted piece of cloth, or the woman could kneel, crouch, or squat using bricks, stones, a pile of sand, or a birth stool.”

The Australian researchers stress that more information is urgently needed to understand how birthing positions relate to levels of pain, control and satisfaction among birthing women.

>> Can walking, sex or spicy food induce labor?

The authors of the original review concluded in a 2013 update, “There is clear and important evidence that walking and upright positions in the first stage of labor reduces the duration of labor, the risk of cesarean birth, the need for epidural, and does not seem to be associated with increased intervention or negative effects on mothers’ and babies’ well being.”

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