Woman sitting backwards on toilet with head rested on pillow while partner sits behind her and rubs back.

Helping Slow Labours


Labours that progress slowly can be challenging.  Nothing is wrong.  It’s just taking time for the baby to move down.  So how to help things along?

First and foremost, stay encouraged.  Especially first-time labouring women.  Labour happens as it needs to happen and while some care providers might suggest speeding things up by using artificial oxytocin in the form of Pitocin or rupturing membranes, it really is important to remember that baby usually knows best and will be working his way into position, slowly rotating in his mother’s pelvis, finding space, moving an arm this way, a hand that way, wiggling and turning, taking the time that he needs.

If you find yourself progressing slowly, or having periods of labour with stalled or very limited progression, it might help to get yourself settled onto the toilet, by far one of the most useful labour enhancers and readily available no matter where your birth is taking place.

Once on the toilet, you’ll find yourself in a position quite similar to a squat and, like a squat, the toilet allows your pelvis to open wide giving lots of room for baby to make his way down.  Your body is used to opening on the toilet.  Your pelvic floor muscles will relax as they respond to the familiar position.  You can urinate as often as you feel the need, ensuring that a full bladder does not take up space and slow descent.   Your position can be adjusted with layers of towels under your feet to make sure that you are comfortable and that your feet are flat and supported.

You can sit in either a forward facing position or in a rear facing position.  Forward facing, your partner can sit in front of you, on a stool or a birth ball, providing a supportive embrace or a comfortable place to rest your head, in between contractions.  Pillows can be positioned on your partner’s chest, so that you can rest even more comfortably.  In a rear facing position, pillows can be placed on the back of the toilet, allowing you to lay your head down to rest.  This way, your labour support person can massage your back, helping to ease tension in your muscles.   During contractions, the open space in the toilet seat allows you to rock your pelvis, shifting back and forth and from side to side, further enhancing baby’s descent.

Be sure to dim the lights in the bathroom, use a blanket over your back or around your shoulders to keep warm, sip something refreshing and energizing between contractions, let your mind imagine your body opening, visualize your baby moving down, closer and closer with each contraction.  Thank your body for working so well, be patient and give your body the time that it needs to open, trusting that slow is fine and progress is as unique as each woman who gives birth.

Labor is a crossing.  A crossing over into motherhood.  Sometimes the way is slow.  The valleys can be deep.  The terrain rugged.  But women are strong and capable.  Your body is designed for the purpose of birthing, at a pace that is distinctively right for you and your baby.  Find natural ways to help your body to open and your baby to descend, implementing simple but helpful techniques…like labouring on the toilet.

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