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.
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.
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"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."