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Optimal Fetal Positioning

Advice for Optimal Fetal PositioningShow [+]Hide [-]

Optimal fetal positioning is a theory developed by midwife Jean Sutton who found that a mother’s movement and position can influence the position of her baby in the womb in the later stages of pregnancy.

This information is for pregnant women and their partners. This advice may help to encourage your baby to get into an ideal position to be born, before labour starts. If your baby is coming head first and you are having one baby (not twins or more), you can try these ideas any time from 34 weeks, when your baby’s head may be beginning to descend in your pelvis. We are hoping to encourage your baby to lie in the optimal position, with it’s back to your front or left side, this will allow birth to be as straightforward as possible.

Things that may helpShow [+]Hide [-]

Sitting - upright, forward leaning postures are good.

- upright, forward leaning postures are good.
  • This allows more space in your pelvis for the baby to turn.
  • Try and sit with your knees lower than your hips with your back straight.
  • Use a cushion under your bottom and in the small of your back.
  • Sit on a dining chair, leaning forwards, with your arms resting on the table.


  • On the floor leaning over a bean bag/birth ball/big pile of cushions
  • You can watch TV this way.


  • When you are resting, lie on your left side with two pillows supporting your right leg.

Try to avoid these things:

  • Lying on your back
  • Sitting on soft low sofas
  • Long car journeys in ‘bucket’ type seats
  • Crossing your knees
  • Squatting, as it may cause the baby to ‘engage’ in your pelvis before it has turned into a good position.

For Labour

  • When you are in labour, try to stay upright either leaning forwards or rocking your hips from side to side with contractions - this really helps the baby to move into a good position. Keep this up for as long as you feel comfortable.
  • Try leaning on the windowsill, or on the bed pumped up high enough, kneeling on the bed, or the back of a chair – let your body relax. Maybe you can get your partner to sit on the chair, kneel towards him and support yourself on his knees – he can give your back a rub at the same time!
  • All fours is a good position – gravity helps, you can move your hips during contractions, and you will not be sitting on your coccyx. 
  • If you want to lie down, lie on your left side – not on your back.

All these things will help but not guarantee a smooth birth.

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