Childbirth Positions: Giving Birth On Your Back Is Just NOT COOL!

Childbirth Positions - Giving Birth On Your Back Is Just NOT Cool

Alternate Childbirth Positions

It amazes me everyday to see and hear about women who lay flat on their back while giving birth!

Sadly, though it’s not their fault – it’s what they’re TOLD TO DO! Seriously, it goes against basic anatomy!!! …

You see our birth canal is actually shaped like a “J” … not a straight line (see diagram on the right) … The baby doesn’t just slide straight down and out. It comes down, then up and over the pelvis.

Look at the picture carefully and you’ll understand how that works. Actually, it seems utterly crazy to lay flat on your back with your legs up = expecting the baby to come out at all!

In fact, choosing to lie on your back as your main childbirth positions closes up your pelvic area by about 30%.

Plus if you think about it – you’ll also have gravity working against you. This means when you’re trying to push bub out, you’re pushing down and then UP before he comes out – Can anyone say CRAZY!!!!!

Plus, who the hell wants to do more work than they have to??? – Giving birth is enough of an effort by itself without some idiot telling you to lay flat on your back and open your legs!


If it feels natural for you and you WANT to lay flat and give birth to your baby that way, then go for it – do what is best for you. But I can suggest a positions that may be easier for you. If you’re a little apprehensive about how you’ll look in those positions – TRUST ME – You won’t care on the day!

So here’s a few childbirth positions you may want to try:

(NOTE: You may want to lie on your back or try other childbirth positions during labor, which can take a few hours, but these positions are to help you specifically in the “Birthing” or “Pushing” phase)

1) Squatting – You can do this on the floor, on a bed, in a birthing pool and use whatever support is necessary ie. bed head, hubby, doula etc. Women who use this position report feeling in control and comfortable in this position. It can help shorten the length of the birth canal, so the baby comes out easier – WOOHOO!

2) All 4′s – Many women (myself included) find getting down on your hands and knees is one of the most natural childbirth positions . It certainly helps in terms of gravity and also opens your hips wide, meaning there’s less pressure on you and your baby.

This can be done on a bed, mats on the floor, in the water or leaning over something like a yoga ball or bed head.

3) Kneeling – Some wome kneel on cushions or on a bed. They can be supported by draping their arms around their partners neck or leaning into a pile of pillows.

4) Lying On Side – Some women find they want to turn to the side to birth their baby. This is completely natural and can be assisted, by the birth partners lifting one of her legs to create enough space for the baby.

5) Birthing Stool – Specially made stools have been used for giving birth for centuries. They are shaped for the mother to sit on and then she is usually supported by her birth partner and/or midwives. Some women find squatting too tiring on their legs, so a birthing stool is definitely helpful in this regard.

If there are any other positions that worked for you or are interested in using, then please let us know in the comments below. Also, I’d love to hear your feedback on any of these positions if you have already used them.


What worked? … What didn’t? … Why? … Why Not?

We always love your discussion and it also helps others who haven’t been in your position.






Tracey Rose is a journalist, natural childbirth educator, mother of two and author of “How To LOVE Your Labour: One Woman’s Journey From Freaking Out To Fearless Birth”

Read the rave reviews:


The way she tells her story makes you want to go to the roof top and yell ” women get informed about labour” ~ Bethany M.


I felt as though I had been sucked into a vortex … And I am not joking even a little bit ~ Ros S.


It wasn’t the type of book you put down and forget ~ Cassidy S.


I was almost in tears reading her amazing birth stories and ached for all women to experience such powerful births! ~ Jessica P.


It was inspiring! I think Tracey is such an amazing women with strength of mind and heart to be able to be composed during such stress with her second birth. I hope to be able to do the same ~ Amy W.

(Downloadable PDF version)

US$37 US$27

(+10% GST for Australians)



Or get more details of what the book is about ==> HERE





Birth Failure

facebook comments:

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather November 3, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I birthed my daughter on my hands and knees in my bed. For the first part of pushing, I had my arms propped on pillows, as she was crowning, I grabbed the headboard and was sort of leaning forward while on my knees. I would rest my head on the headboard between contractions.
I found laying down to be excruciating no matter what stage of labor I was in! I was walking and squatting the whole time!


Crunchy Mama November 4, 2011 at 7:01 pm

I labored standing up for most of my labor. My baby had descended up to her neck while I was standing. Then my midwife asked me to switch positions when they noticed the cord around her neck twice. So I got on all fours on our bed and she plopped out. It was my first baby and hard active labor was a total of 6.5 hours.


Angela Johnston November 4, 2011 at 8:30 pm

I have given birth twice both on a bed in a somewhat sitting reclined position. I tried squatting but it hurt and I didn’t feel I had the strength to support myself. My labors and deliveries are fairly easy and quick with out medications. What would you suggest I try next time? The All 4′s position sounds doable but I don’t understand how gravity helps with that.
Great Article by the way, informative and helpful, thank you.


Leigh November 5, 2011 at 12:38 am

What’s up with being so *judgmental* about a back-lying position? I’ve had women push in every position: squatting, kneeling, all fours, toilet sitting, side-lying, standing… And then this “idiot” (me) suggests they lie back, and horror of horrors, the baby finally starts descending! This position WORKS for many women. Some of them are reluctant to even try it because of harshly-worded blogs like this, even if perhaps they would have instinctually chosen it. Let’s encourage women to try whatever positions work for them, including on the back as needed.

Recent quote from a mom: “One of the main reasons I wanted an out-of-hospital birth was to avoid being on my back. I didn’t even want to try it. But once I did, I just didn’t want to move, because it was the best!” (She gave birth on her back with her legs held up by myself and a doula; she had previously tried at least 4 other positions. She enjoyed being able rest easily in between contractions.) Another mom a few months ago, who had been pushing in a semi-recline, when I suggested she try standing up: “Do I have to? This position rocks!” (She went on to push her baby out in a semi-reclining position after having already tried just about every other position without much progress.) I feel a good percentage of first-time moms derive some benefit from some variation of the back-lying position at some point during pushing. Whether bloggers like it or not!

By the way, I am a midwife doing out-of-hospital births at the rate of 2-4 a month (although I’m currently, temporarily, doing twice that rate). I am not sure exactly what Tracey Rose’s credentials are (even after reading her “About” page, I’m quite unclear), but I will say that most of the midwives I have ever worked with have acknowledged that as bad a rap as back-lying positions get from bloggers, researchers, and other professional opinion-havers, they are sometimes the golden ticket to getting the baby down and out.


ADMIN - Tracey Rose November 5, 2011 at 4:13 am

Thanks for your comments Leigh .. It’s great to get other opinions. I agree with you on the point of semi-reclining being a great position for many women – perhaps I should have put that more clearly in the article.

The whole reason for writing this was to point out the many positions that women are not given a choice of. I did however state: “If it feels natural for you and you WANT to lay flat and give birth to your baby that way, then go for it – do what is best for you” … I actually added that last bit “Do what’s best for you” after your comment because I felt that this may have come across as judgmental , but it certainly wasn’t meant to.

Also, if you know my work – you’ll see that I absolutely love Midwives and am grateful for them at my births – I only wish for every other women to have as much choice and support that I did :)

As for my credentials … I’m a journalist, turned childbirth educator (hypnobirthing) and of course Mum to 2 amazing babies. I appreciate you visiting this site and hope you come back again.

Cheers, Tracey


Marsha November 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

The problem Leigh is that many doctors automatically “force” birthing mothers on their backs. With my first daughter, i was on my back the entire time. My labor was very fast and my epidural was not effective because I was on my back: i had back labor the entire time. I wasn’t given a better option when i was screaming in agony, only told by the nurse that i needed to calm down because the girl down the hall was sleeping. I took my second birth in my own hands after lots of research. My second birth was faster, and easier, because I wasn’t on my back..I sat or walked around my bed as far as the machine’s cords would let me. I birthed on my back, yes, but by then everything, the harder parts, were over with. And my second daughter practically shot out like a cannon…causing the nurse to be so inclined to try and push her back in so the doctor could deliver. Which didn’t happen. For my third birth, I had a midwife. And i labored every where, except the bed. The shower, hot tub, birthing ball. I finally got exhausted and laid down near the end. But i was on my left side. And that is how I birthed. The back just isn’t the best place. The baby compresses on the spine, as you would know. And gravity does hep the baby descend better. In the end, it is best that the woman does what is best for her body, however, most women AREN’T given that choice, let alone known about it. And that’s what a lot of these blogs are about.


Lynn December 15, 2011 at 7:37 am

I’m glad to hear that some women do prefer to give birth on their back! I was starting to feel like there was something wrong with me! I gave birth to all three on my back. The first two were in a hospital, but the third I had at home. I really thought I might want to try some of the other positions (and I’m glad I gave birth at home because I knew I would have the option that way), but nope, I when it came time to push, I was happy, flat on my back. My babies come out fairly easily. I don’t have to push very long. I don’t know why I like it in my bed, on my back, but it was comfortable and easy (in a manner of speaking!) for me. I did NOT like how in the hospital they remove the end of the bed and put your feet in stirrups. That was not comfortable. I wanted my feet on the bed.


Amy December 15, 2011 at 3:41 am

I didn’t necessarily find the content of this article to be judgmental, but the title itself bothered me. I have had three natural births all in a semi-recline position for pushing. It is what worked for me, and I had the option of being in pretty much any position I wanted (midwife attended birth).


ADMIN - Tracey Rose December 15, 2011 at 3:49 am

Hi Amy,

Thanks for your comment. I’ll admit, I sometimes make titles like that to catch people’s attention ;)
I always believe whatever works best for mama and bub is best – being comfortable is key and if semi-reclined worked for you, that’s great.



anonymous November 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm

with my first daughter i lay flat & had epidural ended up having emergency c-section after 16 hours 9horrible experience). with my 2nd daughter i kept mobile & tried all different positions but did not lie flat i delivered my daughter on my side, after a stress free and speedy labour!! :) io believe that my 2nd labour was such a nice experience due to me being free to do as i pleased and what my body & baby were telling me to do.


ADMIN - Tracey Rose November 8, 2011 at 11:06 am

How amazing for you that you were able to have such a beautiful birth, after a horrible experience the first time round. Thanks for the comments :)


Mary Green November 7, 2011 at 2:17 am

I would have loved to try something off my back this time, but I couldn’t. I folded early in labor and got an epidural. When it came time to push I didn’t feel anything so they said I couldn’t stand up, and really I don’t think I could have. Next time though I will keep this all in mind. I love your updates on facebook :)


ADMIN - Tracey Rose November 8, 2011 at 11:05 am

I’m sure you did what was absolutely necessary for you and bub to get through the day :) but not being able to change position is a problem, many women who get the epidural complain about. Thanks for the comments!


Anna November 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Standing was the way I birthed both of my first 2 children (I am pregnant with our third and not yet sure how I will birth this one) It was the most comfortable position for me. My first was 9 lbs. my second was 10 lbs. I birthed them naturally and had not tearing or complications. The first time I used labor assistants’ shoulders for support (since it was a long and tiring labor). The second time, I placed a hand on the wall for a little extra support. I think standing is a good position since gravity is on your side and it is very kind to your perinium.


Anna November 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm

As far as the arguement of the back lying position for birth. It IS proven that it IS the second worse position for birthing (next to being upside down) and throughout history women never considered this position until the use of forceps and the introduction of the episiotomy. The fact is it is more convenient for the doctor, not the mother.


Katie November 29, 2011 at 7:48 am

For my first I ended up in side lying position to birth, it’s just how I ended up and I wanted to stay there even when it was suggested I could trying something else. However for that labor I had to be on all fours the whole time, it was the only way I could manage it. For my second I was in a birth pool and ended up birthing her kneeling and unsupported. I felt for her head and pulled her out myself. For some reason at that moment I didn’t want anyone to help at all. I birthed naturally both times, my first was at a hospital and my second was a homebirth.


Rose December 15, 2011 at 2:35 am

Birthing on birth stools actually has a much higher incidence of perineal tears.
So though it’s fabulous for labour an the first part of pushing, it’s not ideal to birth on one.
This is supported by research. (I’m on my iPhone so can’t link sorry)


Mae December 15, 2011 at 9:56 am

Until you can provide a link to your research, you should probably keep things like this to yourself because it sounds ridiculous.


ADMIN - Tracey Rose December 16, 2011 at 5:59 am

Hi Mae,

Thanks for your comments, but I’m unsure which part sounds ridiculous.

Here are some links to back up research and my own experience. The book, HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method educates about the “J” shaped birth canal and teaches many alternative birthing positions:

The Bradley Method course also teaches birthing positions for laboring and birthing comfortably

I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.


Safiyah Ribis December 15, 2011 at 7:43 am

You forgot to mention standing upright with one leg lifted.


Anna B December 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I have given birth to 7 babies.. every single lying on a bed.. now when I tried diff positions to this I felt out of control and it hurt more for me.. guess I felt more secure. I wasn’t totally flat my back was propped up with pillows.


ADMIN - Tracey Rose December 27, 2011 at 11:54 am

Wow! 7 babies … you must be Super Woman ;) Congratulations … glad you felt comfortable too – that is what’s most important.


Anna B December 16, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Forgot to add I have never had a single stitch.


Linda December 22, 2011 at 8:04 pm

In terms of physics and physiology, the human body is made to give birth in an upright position, so that a woman who is not drugged/guided/managed/waiting to be taken care of and told what to do and does not otherwise feel distracted is going to instinctively get into an upright position. This instinct isn’t magic — it’s what the human body is wired and structured to do (as well as best for the baby, for numerous reasons.) Yes, there are exceptions. Instead of getting defensive about *scientific fact*, how about looking logically at why there are exceptions: Psychologically, we’ve all been conditioned to see birth as something that happens in a bed, and something that is done for you to a certain extent. Now maybe you have a mother who’s tired, who has been hassled into being active “to get labor going”, who is being told to start pushing because she’s fully dilated (which, if the body isn’t ready otherwise, is exhausting and demoralizing) — just being able to lie down can destress and relax her enough that the birth can start to progress. Add to that mix a roomy pelvis, powerful uterus, and baby positioned well, and you’ve got a situation where “reclining works best!” And it does — but because of external conditions, not because that’s what her body is made to do.


MamaO'Many December 22, 2011 at 8:16 pm

At the birth of one of my wee ones, there was a resident OB in the room (w/my permission). As the waters burst, I automatically flipped from my side to hands/knees position. I heard the midwife very quietly tell the resident, “Did you see how she instinctively got of all fours? That is how her body is telling her to birth the baby. Don’t ever interfere with a woman moving around in labour or as she births.” I hope the midwife’s words linger for a long time…


ADMIN - Tracey Rose December 27, 2011 at 11:55 am

That would have been an amazing learning experience for that doctor. I hope they appreciated what you did :)


Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama January 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm

With my second baby, first homebirth, I did deliver on my back. They had me side-lying, but I felt out of control and flipped onto my back. I was sort of hanging off a low-lying bed. It’s a little fuzzy because it happened so fast: I pushed for only two minutes. That worked for me that time.

With my third baby (also homebirth), I was on my hands and knees, leaning over the birthing tub walls late in labor, put as soon as I started feeling really pushy, I leapt up and ran in the bathroom. They coaxed me onto a birth stool, and my husband sat on a chair behind me. I really needed to be upright, because that baby ended up being 1.5 lbs. bigger than my other two. I don’t think I could have delivered him flat on my back!

It really depends on the mom. She should be encouraged to take whatever position feels most comfortable for her. I blogged about healthy pregnancy and my birth stories at :)


Anjanette January 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm

I had my first lying on my back after an exhausting 41 hour labor. All was well – no real problem pushing – but I do believe it contributed to my tear. Second baby I wanted to be more upright even if someone had to hold me in that position at the end. I felt much less vulnerable when not sprawled out. Baby #2 was born with me on my knees, draping the top half of my body over a squat bar. I still tore – though not as badly.

I am almost half-way through pregnancy number 3, and this time I’m using a midwife in a stand alone birth center that provides a tub for water birth. I think I will try whatever feels best, but I’m looking forward to water birth being an option!


Anastasiya Day January 22, 2012 at 11:18 am

Great post Tracy! Thanks for sharing your tips with us on: “Childbirth Positions”, very useful info!


Susan Myers January 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Thanks Tracey for bringing awareness to this subject. Childbirth is not a “one size fits all”. Your points are well taken and gives the expecting mother a few new choices to think about and discuss with her doctor.


MarVeena January 23, 2012 at 3:45 am

Nice article! I will pass along to some of my friends who are pregnant. I am sure a lot of them don’t some of these options!
Thanks for sharing !


Andrea January 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm

This would have been a great article for me when I had my son. Things didn’t quite go to plan and I didn’t get my natural water birth! The picture makes it much easier to understand. Thanks!


M's February 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Articles like this make me wish I had been able to have a natural birth!! (I legitimately had an emergency c-section, my doc held off as long as possible trying to give me the natural childbirth I wanted!)
I do know that my son was lying on a nerve and literally no position (I tried everything!!!) made it even tolerable. It was like a contraction that didn’t stop for hours on end. Congrats to all of you who are able to have natural births! I have loads of respect for you!


Tatiana June 13, 2012 at 4:57 am

I’m a new doula and prenatal educator with Birthing from Within (in Canada). I have not attended to a natural birth at a hospital. It’s been either a home birth with a midwife or a hospital birth with epidural. From fellow doulas, I’ve heard that doctors absolutely want everyone on their backs for pushing/delivering. One doula in particular (she’s been to 300 births) mentioned that only 1 woman did not bulge and did not turn around on her back after the OB’s statement “If you don’t turn around, I cannot safely deliver your baby.” She said: “Then go find someone who can.” I guess I am just looking for conformation of the fact that it’s as bad in the hospitals as I’m being told. I am preparing a couple for a VBAC (a whole new story) at a hospital and I am very clear to set up their expectations to fight for a natural to them position for pushing as the health care provider might have something else in mind. But am I scarring them or am I being fair?


ADMIN - Tracey Rose June 14, 2012 at 5:22 am

Hi Tatiana,

Thanks for your comments. I would be careful in making your family think they have to “fight” in birth. This may send a negative message and trigger stress hormones, which in turn will change the birth physically. My birth teacher just kept reaffirming that this is my birth experience and I could do what I wanted as long as the baby was not in distress. Get them educated enough so they are confident to ask their providers for time to make decisions, time for the birth to progress naturally or ask for different opinions.

Natural birth in hospitals is certainly possible – I did it twice and they were amazing – there are many fantastic midwives and doctors who love to see natural births – it’s just what they are used to these days. Hope this helps :)


nicole July 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm

I labored on the toilet for probably 6 hours, it felt good, I had to pee constantly and the squatting/sitting worked. I then got tired so pretty much was on knees and elbows (semi) napping. I ultimately ended up after a 31 hour labor (3 hours pushing) with a csection, thank you posterior babies! hoping for a VBAC with #2 though! read my birth story here –>


ADMIN - Tracey Rose July 23, 2012 at 8:45 am

Thanks Nicole, I’ll have a look at your story … hope your VBAC goes well! :)


Lena July 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I had scary 2-day bowel incontinence after a hospital VBAC of my daughter (I birthed while laying on my back in a semi-reclined position). My last baby was born at home. I positioned myself on all fours & didn’t have any bowel or bladder incontinence whatsoever. Not even a single vaginal tear. I am convinced being upright is the easiest & safest way to give birth.


ADMIN - Tracey Rose July 23, 2012 at 8:44 am

I gave birth on all fours both times too Lena and it was most comfortable for me :)


meggiemoo July 17, 2012 at 1:53 am

For both of my births (one in a birth center, one at home), I felt comfortable laboring on the toilet, but I always laid on my left side to birth, one leg resting on my midwife’s shoulder. I will say that for my first birth, she checked me when I came in, and laying flat on my back was excruciating. I thought at the time that I couldn’t imagine laying flat to birth. Propped up might be better, but for me, side-lying was perfect.


ADMIN - Tracey Rose July 23, 2012 at 8:40 am

Great to hear you had supportive caregivers who helped you lay comfortably :)


Jennifer July 17, 2012 at 3:29 am

I love this. Love all the information. I wish I had done more research into labor with my first pregnancy. My first delivery was in the hospital and when I went in they immediately hooked me up to monitors and an IV and had me lay on my back until I delivered. My 2nd pregnancy I was induced with pitocin and had to stay hooked up to the monitors in a sitting/lying position for the whole 12+ hours. My 3rd pregnancy (surrogate pregnancy) ended up being a c-section b/c the u/s showed him measuring so large and they didn’t even give me the option of delivering on my own. They said even if I went into labor on my own that they would still do a c-section when I came in. He ended up being 11 lbs 4 oz so idk maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t try a vaginal delivery but reading stuff like this makes me want to have another baby and do a home birth :)


ADMIN - Tracey Rose July 23, 2012 at 8:43 am

Wow! … you were a surrogate?!?! … amazing – and what a huge baby! :)

ps. I read and write about this all the time and it always makes me want to have another baby Jennifer – lol!


Alexandra Elísabet September 14, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I gave birth to my girl on my back, took me 30 min. pushing and she was out, no problem. I’s tear a little on the inside, witch i thought was weird but wasn’t a problem after she had stitch me up, but the stitching was awful. I had 17 hours of labour witch all went smooth and stress free but if I had a contraction standing (walking from the toilet etc.) I nearly fell to the floor, my legs just gave in. So squatting and all the other options never were options, but pushing on my back felt ‘good’ and i spent most of my contractions sitting in a lazy boy, breathing my way trough and my birth partner gently touching my knees. I could focus on the softness of the touch and it was the best. I could forget everything else and push away the painful contraction, still amazed by that today :D I had an epidural about 3 hours before I gave birth and took a really good nap (hadn’t slept for more than 24hr) just couldn’t imagen pushing a baby out so tired, my nap lasted almost 2hours and then i woke up with the epidural going away slowly. My birth partner was my cousin because the father doesn’t live in my country and she went home to her 7th month old, breastfeed him, had a subway and came back to help trough the pushing (this was a really really stress free birth :) ). I’m pregnant again now, about 4 months and have a feeling this birth will be similar but i’d love to try lying on my side, that really interest me. Thank you for a really interesting information :) and btw I live in Iceland and most of the woman here deliver in the hospital, there are midwifes that deliver your baby, no doctor, a doctor is available and a doctor does the epidural but other than that there are just midwifes. We have 3-5 birth tubs and a hall that’s just for drug free births (that’s the really nice hall, you wanna be there) and if u want an epidural you have to ask and wait (i waited 2 hours, expecting it to take longer) so in Iceland natural birth’s are really welcome and a lot women here have naturals births.


ADMIN - Tracey Rose September 18, 2012 at 7:50 am

Thanks for sharing Alexandra … sounds like you had a positive experience the last time, so I hope you can have that again. Great to hear about Iceland’s approach to birth and I find it interesting that they have 3-5 tubs – so different to many places in the US, UK and Australia.


Megan aukes May 17, 2014 at 2:43 am

I used a birth swing. It was amazing. I was able to get in so many supportive positions. In fact my husband wasn’t exhausted in the end from holding me up for hours and hours. When I felt the ring of fire I used the swing to hold me in a half squat while leaning forward and baby literally slid out on his own. It was so amazing I could have birthed another baby! Then after birth I used the swing to nurse in so relaxing and comforting. I wish I had one for my other birth! I recommend it to anyone looking for a natural supportive tool for their birth. Soft adjustable suppportive awesome.


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