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Lying down during labour leads to more natural births

20 October 2017 09:52

Successful natural births are more likely when women lay on their side

Successful natural births are more likely when women lay on their side

Women are more likely to have a successful natural birth while lay on their side rather than stood upright, a study of more than 3,000 first-time mothers has found.

A four-year study of 3,093 pregnant women who had been given a low dose epidural, contradicts guidance that women should stay upright or active during labour.

Outcomes from the study have been featured in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

'Largest study to date'

The randomised control research was carried out at 41 British hospitals between October 2010 and January 2014, and forms the largest study to date on the issue.

Despite guidance for women who have had epidurals saying they should remain upright and active during labour, research shows those who lay on their side are 41.1% more likely to have a natural vaginal birth, compared with 35.2% who remain upright during labour.

"The evidence we have found from this large trial group provides an easy and cost-free intervention in our labour wards," says Professor Peter Brocklehurst, from the University of Birmingham, who worked on the study.

"Pregnant women, in consultation with their healthcare providers, can now make informed choices about their position in the second stage of labour."

However, the professor warns women not to stay flat on their backs while giving birth, as this is known to cause distress to the baby.

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Expanded research

Other outcomes from the study also suggest that women experience slightly shorter labours when lying down, and are no more likely to need a forceps delivery.

Although the test conditions have yet to be carried out on women who have not had an epidural, Prof Brocklehurst expects there to be similar results when the research is launched.

He said: "We are now designing the next trial to look at position in labour among women without epidural.

"If you look at the evidence saying upright is best, then yes, it should be questioned."