New research indicates that first-time moms who take an epidural may reduce their need for medical intervention if they lie down while in labor.

By Zara Husaini Hanawalt
October 19, 2017
New Mom Epidural
Credit: hakimata/FOAP

If you're pregnant for the first time, you may be playing out multiple delivery scenarios in your head. But if you'd prefer to deliver without the need for medical intervention, you may want to consider staying in a specific position during the later part of your labor.

A new study published in The BMJ indicates that first-time mothers who opt for epidural pain relief may have better odds of delivering without the need for medical intervention if they assume this position. Sounds easy enough, right?

Researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial of 3,093 women who delivered across 41 UK hospitals and sought out to determine how a woman's position throughout the second stage of labor affected delivery outcomes. They observed both women who remained lying down and those who adopted upright positions.

According to their findings, women who were upright had a lower rate of spontaneous vaginal birth (35 percent), as compared to those who were lying down through the second stage of labor (41 percent).The second stage of labor refers to the time after the woman's cervix is fully dilated.

Since taking an epidural has been thought to increase a woman's chances of needing some medical intervention (like a suction to help move the baby's head through the birth canal or forceps (surgical instruments that maneuver the baby out), this news may be valuable for first-time mothers. Of course, it doesn't indicate that if you continue lying down until you deliver, you'll definitely have an unassisted delivery—but it might help a bit, especially since it's a fairly simple tactic.

"The study provides evidence that first time mothers with an epidural who lie down on their side during the second stage of labour are more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth, with no apparent disadvantages in relation to short or longer term outcomes for mother or baby. Like all clinical trials, the study does have its limitations and we can only speculate about the mechanism by which a lying down position increases the chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth," said researcher Professor Peter Brocklehurst, according to a release for this news. "However, the evidence we have found from this large trial group provides an easy and cost-free intervention in our labour wards. Pregnant women, in consultation with their healthcare providers, can now make informed choices about their position in the second stage of labour."