birth positions

Positions for Birth, Part 3

"Hands & Knees" 


Hands and knees is a great position for labor that allows for open hips and pelvis, and can also be a highly effective position for pushing. If you experience significant back pain in labor it’s likely you will find a lot of relief on your hands and knees. It’s thought that significant back pain in labor can be the result of a mal-positioned or posterior baby. Hands and knees may be suggested if labor is stalling. You might not find it comfortable at first (or at all); try to give it a few contractions for your body to adjust – it might be what your labor needs to take the next turn.  


The most important thing is that you get comfortable. You might be on your knees for a while if you find your groove in this position, so make sure to set yourself up with cushioning under your knees and a comfortable place to rest between contractions. If you have an exercise ball you can try draping yourself with your arms over top and room for your belly. Lay a blanket over top if you find the ball uncomfortable and keep a glass of water with a straw nearby to stay hydrated. The ball allows you to rock through contractions comfortably and makes a nice resting place in between. A couch or hospital bed moved to a comfortable level also make a good place to anchor yourself and rest in between.


Keep your hips wide for hands and knees. The rocking motion of the birthing ball can be beneficial to encourage baby to descend into your pelvis. Through contractions try to drop your arms and shoulders into the ball or bed and relax your bottom to bring baby down and open your cervix (as much as you can – this can be easier said than done! Your doula will encourage and remind you of this.) Having your partner or doula use counter-pressure or the double hip squeeze can help relieve the pressure you may feel in your back through contractions.

Listen to your body. If you are feeling uncomfortable, find a new position. You are the most in tune with what your body needs to go through labor and birth your baby – don’t ignore it! 

Positions For Birth: 3 Techniques to Try in Labor

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Women have been instinctively following their bodies lead in labor for thousands of years, and while our instincts are often exactly what we should be listening to, there’s a time and place for pulling out a few helpful tricks to nudge labor along and position both mom and baby for birth. If you search the internet for labor positions and techniques you’ll find endless lists. We know that can be overwhelming, so we’re giving you a few bites to chew over the next week.

First up: The Miles Circuit

About this technique:

The Miles Circuit is a set of 3 exercises than can be practiced in late pregnancy, at term as a means of encouraging onset of labor, or in a stalled labor where contractions aren’t getting longer, stronger, or closer together.  These positions are suggested to help nudge baby into a more optimal position for birthing.


For this circuit you’ll need to set aside about 90 minutes out of your day. Create a relaxing, comfortable space with an exercise/yoga mat, (or a firm, cozy bed), plenty of pillows, and a glass of water to stay hydrated.

The Process:

Open Knee Chest Position: Hold this position for 30 minutes, starting out in cat/cow, then                   dropping your chest as low as possible to the floor with your bottom high in the air . Keep                   your knees wide enough apart that the angle between torso and thighs is about 90 degrees.                 Prop yourself up with pillows and get as comfortable as possible. If you have a partner to help, a rebozo (long, wide scarf or fabric) carefully positioned under your belly can help hold you up in this position.

Exaggerated Sims: Lie on your left side with your top leg propped up as high as you can with pillows or cushions, and your bottom leg straightened. Roll forward and relax into this position for about 30 minutes. This position is likely most comfortable on a bed with a pile of pillows for support!

Get Up and Moving: Now is the time to get up and sit on a ball doing hip rotations (thing hula-hoop), try lunges, curb walking, or sideways stair walking for another 30 minutes. Check the Miles Circuit link for a more complete explanation of these three exercises.

This circuit can be done daily leading up to labor. During labor, try to maintain these positions through contractions, if possible. 

You can find the step-by-step, illustrated instructions for the Miles Circuit here.

Check back soon to find out what’s up next for our suggested Techniques to Try In Labor.