Pregnant mom pushing on her side during simulated birth with banner that reads 'Best Positions for Labor'

Movement and Birth: the Best Positions for Labor

Want to know what movements and positions are best for birth? Let’s hear what ACOG has to say first. Then we will dive into different movements and positions for the first stage of labor (before pushing) in today’s post and cover the second stage of labor (pushing) in our next post.

So what are the best positions for giving birth?

Picture of pregnant moms practicing birth positions on exercise balls with text that reads Positions What is the best position to labor and give birth in?

Short answer the best positions for birth depends…

  • On what stage of labor you are in
  • If you have an epidural or other condition that impacts your ability to move freely
  • And most importantly, (and supported by ACOG), it depends on YOUR preferences

In ACOG’s Approaches to Limit Intervention during Labor and Birth from February 2019, they recommend:

  1. using positions that are comfortable to the laboring person
  2. frequent position changes

*Positions should still allow for monitoring and not be otherwise contraindicated by a medical condition.

How do YOU know what the best positions for birth are for YOU?

If you are having an uncomplicated labor, trust your instincts! Wait, how will you know how to move? To hone your instincts, I highly recommend trying some of the different positions below BEFORE you are actually having your baby (before 36 weeks is a good goal). 

In addition, while the best general rule of thumb is to move in ways that feel comfortable to you, different types of movements can be helpful at different stages of birth. For uncomplicated births, the movements and positions that I generally recommend aim to maximize the use of gravity and create the most space for the baby like we mentioned in our last blog post Movement and Birth: how does it help?

If you are looking for guided practice of different movements and positions to try during different stages of birth, check out Active Labor. Read on to learn more.

Best positions for labor during different stages

In uncomplicated births,

  • Early Labor Movements = upright ones (although it is good to rest as needed to conserve your energy mama)
  • Active Labor Movements = still upright but with a little more support

*Hospital policies vary on how much movement they allow, especially if you have had an intervention like an epidural or are having an induction. I highly recommend discussing your options with your provider ahead of time.

Early Labor Movements

Examples of movements to use during early labor include walking and labor dancing.

When your contractions are just beginning, it can be helpful to continue your daily activities or choose an activity that helps take your mind off of your labor contractions for a bit – you will have plenty of time to think about those later.

This is the time to use upright movements and positions as our goal is to help the baby to continue on its journey down into your pelvis. Your baby also rotates and moves to help with the birth process, so mixing in some lunges, squats, or stairs to your bouts of labor dancing may give baby space to move about. 

Contrary to previous belief, early labor can take time, so while upright positions can be helpful, pace yourself and rest as needed and when it’s appropriate. You don’t want to stay up labor dancing all night because you will need some energy for the later stages of labor.

And if you are wondering what early labor is, don’t sweat it, this is covered in  Active Labor and most birth classes.

Active Labor Movements

Examples of movements to use during active labor include sitting, kneeling, and getting on all fours using a birth ball, chair, hospital bed, toilet, or even your partner!

You will have been laboring for some time, so having support can help conserve some energy for pushing while still letting gravity help your baby continue its journey down into the birth canal. 

As mentioned above, changing up a movement with a squat or a lunge or just a change in position may give your baby an opportunity to move or rotate a different way to continue making their way into the birth canal. 

While movement can be used to help ease discomfort, you may wish to add in other comfort measures during this stage of labor. Some things to think about ahead of time include if you want:

  • hands-on comfort techniques like massage and counter pressure so you and your partner can practice now
  • Pain management like and epidural so you can get to know certain positions/movements you CAN use

In Active Labor, you get to practice movements and positions for all the different stages of labor AND practice hands-on comfort measures. This helps you know what feels good to YOU, your partner is prepared for the big day, AND you get to convince your partner to give you massages during pregnancy. 

Learn More About Movement & Birth

This post is part of a mini-series on movement and birth by me, Alex Courts, co-creator of Postpartum Recovery Timeline and creator of Active Labor e-course that covers how to ease birth with movement.

Catch my next blog post on pushing

You can subscribe to pregnancy content here or get all of the content in < 2 hours in my Active Labor e-course

Product Image with title Active Labor and text below that reads 'Childbirth Prep Class Learn how to ease birth with movement and hands-on support from your partner'. Image below of pregnant mother holding her belly and logo for Vibrant Physical Therapy and Wellness in bottom right corner.


ACOG Committee Opinion No. 766: Approaches to Limit Intervention During Labor and Birth. Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Feb;133(2):e164-e173. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003074. PMID: 30575638.

*Note: We provide information on pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery not healthcare advice. We encourage you to discuss any content with your healthcare provider – we value their role in your recovery and this site is not a replacement for healthcare services like obstetricians, gynecologists, midwives, primary care providers, physical and occupational therapists, and mental health providers. See our Terms & Disclaimer and our Resources for more information.