During labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum, the hospital bed can be a very useful and versatile tool in helping you cope with contractions and find optimal comfort. Throughout this month, we'll be sharing new and existing resources on labor positions (there are so many!) that can be used during labor to find comfort, help speed up (or slow down) the process, and help baby get in the best position for birth. Changing positions in labor is not only helpful, but necessary to keep labor progressing and to help avoid unnecessary interventions. Different labor positions can be used no matter where birth takes place and with or without an epidural. For this post, we're sharing 10 different ways you can use the hospital bed to accommodate labor position changes.
10 Labor Positions to Use with a Hospital Bed
Most simply, a hospital bed can be used to sit down on. Lower the bed to it's lowest setting, or where you can easily rest your feet on the floor. You can sit on the bed to take a break from a standing position or for intermittent fetal monitoring. Sitting on a bed is considerably more comfortable than laying back flat on a bed when experiencing contractions. This position can also be used with an epidural, depending on your level of mobility.
Semi-sitting allows you to rest without laying on your back and while still using gravity to encourage baby to descend. Semi-sitting, which is also sometimes called "throne sitting" is done with the help of a nurse who can modify the bed to position it more like a chair. This is also another way to use the bed while being on the monitors. Opening your legs butterfly style (as pictured) will help keep your pelvis opening as wide as possible, which gives baby the most room to keep wiggling down. This position can also be used with an epidural. This position may not be ideal for those experiencing back pain/"back labor."
In this position, the bed is raised to its highest level and depending on your height when leaning over, you may need to add a pillow or two to comfortably rest your arms and head. Standing allows for optimal use of gravity to help baby descend. Leaning allows for more rest in between contractions. This position also gives access to a support person to massage your back, do a hip squeeze, or apply heat or ice to your lower back/sacrum. This is generally a good position for those experiencing back pain/"back labor," but cannot be used with an epidural.
Standing/Leaning with Ball
Similar to the what is described above, this position uses the addition of a yoga/exercise ball (seen here draped with a blanket for comfort). The ball provides an alternative stance (more upright) and gives the ability to sway/move back and forth if desired. It's also an ideal position to encourage all hands on deck from your labor support team!
Squat Support (Floor Squatting)
Squatting during labor has many benefits -- opening your pelvis wide, encouraging baby to move down, and helping baby to get in an optimal position for birth. That said, it's critical to be well supported during a squat in labor. By lowering the hospital bed to its lowest position, it should be an ideal height for you to use as a support during a squat.
Sitting with Knee Pressure
Sitting on the edge of the hospital bed positions you perfectly for a support person to apply pressure to your knees, which can help reduce the pain from contractions.
Hands & Knees/Kneeling
Getting on your hands and knees can help relieve back pressure and get baby into an optimal position for birth. The hospital bed offers the perfect platform for hands and knees position. As seen in the picture, you can enlist the help of your nurse to raise the back of the bed and lower the foot to make use of different "steps" for your hands and knees. You can also position yourself in a more horizontal hands and knees position on a flat bed. Both of these positions can be used with an epidural.
Squatting for Pushing
Hospital beds also come equipped a particularly useful removable piece called a "squat bar." This metal bar attaches to the mid-section of the bed and provides helpful leverage to get into a deep squat, which can be very effective to help with pushing. Be sure to let the staff and your provider know you would like to try using the squat bar for pushing so they can make sure it's available (it may be in another room or tucked away). Depending on the strength of an epidural, this position could be used in conjunction with an epidural.
If you're going to lay down in a hospital bed, it's ideal to lay on your side, as this is more comfortable with contractions, and allows you to position yourself in such a way to keep your pelvic opening wide, like shown in the picture with a peanut ball (stacked pillows also works well). This position is compatible with having an epidural and can work well with monitors in place. This position also allows you to rest, and gives access to your back for massage or counter pressure from a support person or doula.
If you're going to use a hospital bed for laying down on your back, it's best done after birth, during recovery. There, you can snuggle with your newborn, allow skin-to-skin care, breastfeed, and of course, sleep.