Giving Birth Lying Down

December 7, 2021


You might be surprised to find out that birthing on your back has much more to do with history rather than biology.

The idea of women giving birth on their backs lying down wasn’t introduced until around the 1700’s. Before this time women labored on squatting stools. This allowed midwives to be floor level to catch babies when they were born.

However, there was a king Louis XIV, King of France who insisted his mistress birth on her back so he could watch.

Women in the King’s court decided to mimic this newfound way of birth, so they could be like royalty. However, midwives found it to be much more difficult for mothers to get babies out while laying on their backs. This caused doctors to be present at births much more often.

Soon word spread and everyone started birthing lying down, believing that if it was done in the royal household then it much be for the best.

This trend of laying down has continued, particularly in the Western hemisphere. Most movies and tv shows show women giving birth by going to a hospital and birth on their backs. So, pregnant women giving birth most often seek out hospitals to birth in and end up lying on their backs to give birth.

When a woman chooses to birth at home, she is able to walk around, be on all fours, squat, lay on her side, birth in a tub, or however is most comfortable for her.

We have learned through research that one of the best and most natural positions for childbirth is squatting. This is because you have gravity on your side and you have a maximum pelvic capacity in this position.

Squatting can help deliver a baby more quickly. During childbirth, the baby moves down towards the coccyx, which has a natural curve up. When squatting, this flexes and moves as your baby makes its way down the birth canal.

While lying on your back while giving birth decreases contractions. Gravity is working against you as the baby is pushed towards your back and needs to come out over the coccyx, you are essentially pushing uphill. This also decreases cervical dilation.

So, if lying down makes giving birth so much harder, why do we still do it?

One reason is that it can help medical staff to see what is going on while the baby is being born. It is all about convenience for the caregiver. This position gives them a better view, allowing them to also do interventions such as episiotomies, vaginal exams, and using forceps.

As a doula, I recommend women birth in whatever position is the most comfortable for them. I encourage them to choose positions that allow the pelvis to open up and use gravity in their favor. Sometimes this means squatting.

We need to remember we are mammals and we are designed to birth upright. Evidence shows that being upright and using gravity has a better outcome for the woman. This isn’t just a physical thing, women have reported that giving birth in an upright position makes them feel more confident, in control, and positive about their birth experience.

Note From Your Doula

Birth in the position that makes you feel the most powerful and is the most comfortable for you! Trust your body and your instincts. Your body knows how to birth!!!

To learn more about my classes and birth support your can find me here!

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