First-time pregnant women who give birth in a kneeling position experience less pain than those who deliver in a seated position, researchers in Sweden report.
However, the duration of the active phase of labor (the time spent pushing) is similar with the two approaches, according to the study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Several studies have already reported the advantages of an upright delivery position compared to one lying down, such as less pain and more efficient contractions. However, this is the first time researchers compared the two most common upright delivery positions — kneeling and sitting.
Lead by I. Ragnar, from the University of Malardalen in Vasteras, the team followed 271 healthy first-time mothers, whom they randomly divided into two groups: one that prepared for labor in a kneeling position, the other for a seated position. After delivery the women filled out a questionnaire describing their experiences.
The results revealed no major differences between the two groups in the duration of labor. The pushing phase lasted 48.5 minutes for women who kneeled and 41.0 minutes for women who sat.
On the other hand, the two groups reported significantly different labor experiences. Women in a seated position reported a higher level of pain, less comfort giving birth and “more frequent feelings of vulnerability and exposure” than women in the kneeling position, the authors write.
The researchers also found no difference in the frequency of sphincter ruptures between the two groups.
However, women in the kneeling position reported significantly less pain after delivery than those in the sitting position. “This might be explained by the kneeling position being more flexible when it comes to moving the lower back, diverting some of the pressure toward the lower spine,” the authors suggest.
In addition, the researchers detected no adverse effects on the fetus for either delivery position.