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Hands-and-knees birth posture unproven

Going through labour on hands and knees helps to ease back pain but does not shift the baby into a position that eases delivery, new research shows.

It was previously thought that the hands-and-knees posture made labour shorter, less intense and less prone to complication.  It is also thought by some midwives that the position can help to shift breech babies.

A review of three studies with 2,794 mothers has however found that while the hands-and-knees position eased backache it did not significantly affect birthing outcomes or shift the position of the fetus.

Lead study author Justus Hofmeyr said: “There were more babies in the hands-and-knees group that changed position than in the control group, but the difference as not significantly different.

“While there was not yet enough evidence to recommend the posture as a method for correcting the baby's position, it may certainly be recommended for women who find that it is more comfortable, particularly for relieving back pain.”

Nurse-midwife Teri Stone-Godena added that she believes no further research is required to prove the benefits of the hands-and-knees position: “In midwifery we have a saying ‘listen to women'.

“This sometimes translates into us saying, ‘many women have found that this helps; and then we suggest the hands-and-knees position.”

Cochrane Collaboration