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Hands & Knees in Labor

On my Facebook page, a woman asked: "Has anyone here spent a lot of time in hands and knees position during labor/birth? How did you cope with the pressure on your wrists in that position?" Great question! Here are the answers so far. 

C: I hated that! My joints were more flexible and as a result it put a lot of stress on my wrists!

E: I did to get my posterior baby to turn. The midwife had me lay over a birthing/exercise ball while on my knees. It kept the integrity of the position without killing my wrists.

D: Make fists, place your fists on the ground, keeps the wrists straight. Lean over the birth ball. Child's pose with a pillow under the head and chest. On the couch (or hospital bed) kneeling with your folded arms over the arm of the couch... or back of the hospital bed. Forearms on the ground instead of hands... I'm sure there are other modifications, but that's what I can come up with in 30 seconds.

A: Sling hanging from above can be leaned into/you can put it under your armpits and dangle forward if it's lowered enough for you to basically be (on) hands and knees. Alternately, your partner or a doula can hold a rebozo for you in the same position, but it can be pretty tiring for them.

M: I was "driven" to my knees at some point with all births (4). Never noticed any wrist discomfort during or after. I usually don't end up on hands & knees until I am almost done though. Oh! And a birth ball is perfect for being on hands and knees without hurting your wrists! (That's what I did earlier in labors, I almost forgot.)

A: Leaning over the seat of a chair/couch with pillows under the knees.

K: I was on my hands and knees in a birthing tub and the water helped remove a lot of the pressure from my wrists.

J: I tilted the bed all the way up and leaned on the head of the bed. Didn't hurt my wrists at all.

S: I have bad wrists, too, & did hands/knees leaning over the birth ball. Then the only issue was carpet burn on my knees. I'll have knee pads ready just in case I like hands & knees next time.

C: Birth ball. Then over the side of birthing tub. Dang midwives made me roll around to turn the little boy, but it worked and out he came.

L: A stack of pillows under the chest or a chair or other sturdy piece of furniture to lean against, wrap arms around, etc.

K: Nodding to the idea of the birth ball - also, in my doula bag I have those little gardening kneeling pads, specifically for this purpose.

A: I used the pillows pretty heavily so I was propped up without needing to put pressure on my wrists and leaned on my forearms a lot too. I also did what they call puppy pose with my rear up in the air and arms stretched out a lot too.

K: I used a shower chair to lean over for several variations of hands and knees/feet, and it was absolutely instrumental for my homebirth in February.

M: I did this but would often rest my forearms and even my face on the bed. I was even able to sleep in this position.

S: I had the head of the hospital bed up and leaned on my elbows instead. We were trying to turn my sunny-side-up baby!

L: I knelt by the side of the bed at home; used my husband for support (he sat against the head of the bed when they thought to lift it) at the hospital. I don't remember any wrist pain - but at the hospital - very uncomfortable (flailing feeling) for an old childhood elbow injury.

H: I would kind of rest on pillows in between contractions, and then straighten up when a contraction came. I also spent a lot of time in squat on my knees kind of thing that was kind of like hands and knees, but not quite.

K: That's how I spent my 2nd labor. I was able to stay that way because every other position was way too uncomfortable. When in labor you really don't notice those kind of aches and pains.

A: I was in a birthing pool and spent most of the time during contractions in the hands and knees position. I mostly noticed that my legs and hips hurt, not my wrists. Then, between contractions, I would sit up a little bit and lean on the side of the pool.

J: If you're in a hospital, you can lower the bottom part of the bed and put your knees there and then just rest on a few pillows stacked on the higher part.

J: I leaned on a birth ball, the couch, or the futon. I also leaned on the side of the pool... although my husband and doula said I spilled a good deal of water. I didn't notice! What hurt me was my knees. So I kept a pillow handy. I spent 12 hrs like that so the next day my hamstrings and gluts hurt something fierce! I think my legs and butt hurt worse than my (no tears either) vagina!

A: Mostly had knees on floor and upper body resting on something else, so most of my weight was supported. Sometimes knees on floor arms/head resting on couch or foot of bed or birth ball or edge of birth tub.

A: On a hospital bed: raise head of bed & put pillows on top, face the head of the bed and let your shoulders and head rest on top of the pillows.

P: I gave birth in a hospital (with a midwife and doula) and delivered on my knees. I leaned against the bed that was propped up. It was amazing and dare I say comfortable.

S: Go to forearms, or lean on dressers, bookcases.

M: I didn't read all responses but I spent most of my labor on hands/knees or modified draped over birth ball so I had same position.

C: I pushed for the last half hour in that position and managed to remain intact after a 4th degree from the previous birth. I'd definitely recommend it. I even have bad wrists. Instead of palms down, I made fists. Works to spread the force up into your arm rather than into your wrist alone.

K: It was the only way I could be in labor with my OP baby. The pain of sitting upright or standing was too much. I gave my wrists breaks by hanging over the birth ball, and then when we transferred to the hospital for complications I used the back of the hospital bed and my big body pillow the same way. I never noticed any wrist problems. 

Great topic! Any more ideas? Please share!

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Reader Comments (6)

DEFINITELY make use of the birth ball, pillow, and/or leaning over the back of the hospital bed instead of putting all that pressure on one's wrists, if possible.

I pushed on hands and knees, but leaned back against the back of the tub to rest in between contractions. I think that these "rest periods" are also important (if comfortable) during the first stage of labor too when it comes to the hands and knees position--otherwise, your wrists and arms really can get worn out and sore!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Thank you for this amazing post! so many opinions at once! Now I know which ways are better to give birth! Cause I'm still pregnant:)))

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

I think I was leaning on the end of the hospital bed in the "sitting up" setting. That position didn't work at all for me though... completely halted my progress.

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan

I had them put my plastic storage bench on the bed, and I put my forearms on that. For the previous birth I leaned on a birth ball, but I didn't like it because it was unstable and I had to put in a lot of effort to maintain my position.

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy

I loooooove that position!!!! I gave birth to my 3rd baby on all fours and wish I would have done this / was allowed to do this with my other two...it turned my posterior baby during transition and he just "flushed" out. It felt so natural. If you get tired on your wrist, lean on your partner, on your ellbows, over the counter, chair...pain on your knees? fold blankets, widen or tighten your stand - like in yoga: make it comfortable!. And it is a perfect humble prayer position as well;-)

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

What a great testimony for hands & knees!

September 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

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