Maternal Positions for Childbirth A Historical Review of Nursing Care Practices



    Corresponding author
    1. Joyce Roberts is a doctoral candidate in nursing at the University of Illinois and has continued to teach part-time in the Graduate Nurse-Midwifery Program of the College of Nursing at the University of Illinois at the Medical Center. She has worked as a nurse-midwife at Cook County Hospital, where she is currently involved in research regarding positional variables during labor. She has had previous teaching and patient care experiences in Wyoming, Iowa, California, and Utah. Ms. Roberts received her professional education at the University of Wyoming and the University of Utah, where she also received her certificate in nurse-midwifery. She is a member of NAACOG, AGNM, INA, Sigma Theta Tau, and Phi Kappa Phi.
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Address reprint requests to Joyce Roberts, RN, CNM, Dept. of Maternal-Child Nursing, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at the Medical Center, P.O. Box 6998, Chicago, IL 60680.


The basis of maternity care practices related to maternal position for childbirth is analyzed historically in a review of the American periodical nursing literature from the early 1900′s to the present and of contemporary maternity nursing texts. The factors of 1) concomitant obstetrical practices, 2) the prerogative of the physician, and 3) the evolving and predominantly supportive role of the nurse are identified as the major influences on these nursing practices. Historical aspects of the development of the current role of the nurse in maternity care are identified. While nurses are currently questioning care practices related to the positions of women for childbirth and offering more explicit rationale, the need for research related to features of physical care and a more assertive professional role for nurses is emphasized.