A substantive amendment to this systematic review was last made on 23 March 1999. Cochrane reviews are regularly checked and updated if necessary.
Background: For centuries, there has been controversy around whether being upright (sitting, birthing stools, chairs, squatting) or lying down has advantages for women delivering their babies.
Objectives: The objective of this review was to assess the benefits and risks of the use of different positions during the second stage of labour (i.e., from full dilatation of the cervix).
Search strategy: Relevant trials are identified from the register of trials maintained by the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group, and from the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register.
Selection criteria: Trials were included which compared various positions assumed by pregnant women during the second stage of labour. Randomised and quasi-randomised trials with appropriate follow-up were included.
Data collection and analysis: Trials were independently assessed for inclusion, and data extracted by the two authors. Disagreements would have been resolved by consensus with an editor. Meta-analysis of data is performed using the RevMan software.
Main results: Results should be interpreted with caution as the methodological quality of the 18 trials was variable. Use of any upright or lateral position, compared with supine or lithotomy positions, was associated with:
- 1Reduced duration of second stage of labour (12 trials—mean 5.4 minutes, 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.9–6.9 minutes). This was largely due to a considerable reduction in women allocated to use of the birth cushion.
- 2A small reduction in assisted deliveries (17 trials—odds ratio (OR) 0.82, 95% CI 0.69–0.98).
- 3A reduction in episiotomies (11 trials—OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.64–0.84).
- 4A smaller increase in second degree perineal tears (10 trials—OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.09–1.54).
- 5Increased estimated risk of blood loss > 500ml (10 trials—OR 1.76, 95% CI 1.34–3.32).
- 6Reduced reporting of severe pain during second stage of labour (1 trial—OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.41–0.83).
- 7Fewer abnormal fetal heart rate patterns (1 trial—OR 0.31, 95% CI 0.11–0.91).
Reviewers' conclusions: The tentative findings of this review suggest several possible benefits for upright posture, with the possibility of increased risk of blood loss > 500 mL.
Women should be encouraged to give birth in the position they find most comfortable. Until such time the benefits and risks of various delivery positions are estimated with greater certainty when methodologically stringent trials data are available, then women should be allowed to make informed choices about the birth positions in which they might wish to assume for delivery of their babies.
Citation: Gupta JK, Nikodem VC. Women's position during second stage of labour (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 4, 2000. Oxford: Update Software.