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Study finds lying down may help labor


Claudia Boyd-Barrett

posted in Pregnancy

Want an easier labor? Lying down may help, a recent study suggests.

Researchers in Britain found that moms who laid down during the second stage of labor – the part when it’s time to push – were more likely than moms who walked, stood, knelt or sat upright on the bed to have a vaginal birth without need for assistance such as forceps or suction.

The scientists looked at data on more than 3,000 women who had babies at 41 hospitals between 2010 and 2014. All the women were first-time moms and had a low-dose epidural, which reduces pain but has also been tied to a higher risk of needing tools or surgery to get the baby out. About 40 percent of the women’s labors were induced.


The women in the study were assigned randomly to either lie down (they were allowed up to a 30-degree incline) or stay upright during labor.

Of the women who laid down, 41 percent gave birth without intervention. That compared to 35 percent of women who gave birth in the upright position, according to the findings published in the British Medical Journal.

The findings go against commonly held logic that the push of gravity helps make delivery easier when women are upright. The authors speculated it could be that contractions are more effective when lying down, or that some of the tissues swell up below the baby’s head in the upright position, making it harder to push the baby out.

Still, the findings may not apply across the board, for example to women who don’t get an epidural or an induction. Also, most of the women in the study were white, so it’s possible other racial groups could respond differently to labor position.

In comments to Reuters, Harvard Medical School Dr. Philip Hess recommended women choose the labor position that feels most comfortable to them.

What labor position has worked best for you in the past or do you plan to use?

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