Guide for movement in labour

by Suzanne Swan 

During labour, listen to, and trust your body – it will let you know what to do.  Below are suggested movements which you can adapt according to your particular needs (the variations are endless). Read here for the latest evidence on birthing positions.


Make yourself comfortable – use lots of pillows to lean on, sit on, under knees, ankles etc)

STANDING: Lean against wall, partner, over furniture, window sills. - Hang from beams, branches, etc. - walk, dance, rotate/rock hips, - Have a shower.

SITTING: In partner’s lap, straddle a chair, sit on the floor, toilet, bed, back to back with partner. Sit on chair and lean on kneeling partner Cross legged on the floor.

SQUATTING: Opens pelvis/intensifies contractions - Use during or in between contractions. - Lean back against your partner - Squat leaning onto cushions/sofa - Squat using a stool - Can put pillow under heels - Squat against a wall – in the shower.

KNEELING: - Use pillow/mat for knees. - Onto beanbag, chair, partner, bed, etc. - Upright and rotate hips. - In the bath while partner pours water on you.

HANDS AND KNEES: - Lean onto someone else who is on all fours and have them rotate hips. - Rotate pelvis, rocking - Good for fast delivery, backache/posterior labour. - Kneeling forward (as in all fours) will moderate contractions - Kneeling upright (squatting) will intensify contractions.  Can be used if there is an ‘anterior lip’ Listen to your body and do what feel comfortable

For evidence based information on labour & birth positions visit  Pregnancy, Birth and Baby a national Australian Government service operated by Healthdirect Australia.


The 3 R's in Childbirth Preparation: Relaxation, Rhythm & Ritual

by Penny Simkin

The 3 R's approach to childbirth preparation is a simplified approach based on observations of labouring women and how they actually cope with pain and stress in labour. Some cope well; others are overwhelmed in labour. There are three characteristics common to women who cope well:

1) They are able to relax during and/or between contractions. In early labour relaxation during contractions is a realistic and desirable goal; later in labour, however, many women cope much better if they don't try to relax during contractions. They feel better if they move or vocalize during the contractions, or even tense parts of their bodies. It is vital, however, that they relax or are calm between contractions;

2) The use of rhythm characterises their coping style;

3) They find and use rituals, that is, the repeated use of personally meaningful rhythmic activities with every contraction.

While women draw heavily on the coping measures they learned in childbirth class, those who cope well usually do more than that; they discover their own rituals spontaneously in active labour. If disturbed in their ritual or prevented from doing the things they have found to be helpful, labouring women may become upset and stressed.

Women are most likely to find their own coping style when they feel safe and supported, and are free from restrictions on their mobility and their vocal sounds and are also free from disturbances to their concentration, such as other people talking to them or doing procedures on them during contractions. Following are some examples of unplanned spontaneous rituals discovered by labouring women:

• One woman felt safe and cared for when her mother brushed her long, straight hair rhythmically during the contractions. another rocked in a rocking chair in rhythm with her own pattern of breathing.

• Another wanted her partner to rub her lower leg lightly up and down in time with her breathing. another wanted her partner to count her breaths out loud and point out to her when she was beyond the number of breaths that meant the halfway point in the contraction.

• Another dealt with her back pain by leaning on the bathroom sink, swaying rhythmically from side and moaning while her partner pressed on her low back.

• Another, who had rowed crew in high school, used a visualisation in conjunction with her breathing pattern: each breath represented a stroke of her oar, helping her to "glide smoothly" through the contraction.

Another let her breathing follow the rhythm of her partner's hand moving up and down ("conducting"); she focused entirely on the partner's ring with its blue stone as her guide.

Once a woman finds a ritual, she depends on it for many contractions. Changing the ritual or disturbing it throws her off. Don’t disturb the labouring woman!! Most women change their ritual from time to time in labour, when a change of pace seems necessary.