Birth Stools and Squatting

March 31, 2010 at 6:53 pm 2 comments


Often times, when a woman mentions a “birth stool”, she is met with questions about such a contraption.   What is it? What does it look like? Can you buy them?  Does it WORK?


A birth stool is one of the most simple and effective tools for complementing the second stage of labor (pushing).   While most hospitals unfortunately don’t offer a birth stool, a similar position can be achieving using a squat bar, which is available at many hospitals.

Laboring on a toilet also engages a very comparable position to a squat bar or birth stool and can work wonders in relaxing the perineum and bringing down a baby.  In fact, according to Penny Simkin, “During squatting, the average pelvic outlet is 28% greater than in the supine position.”

Many laboring women find that squatting positions help them feel more grounded and powerful during the pushing stage and allow more control in delivery.   Also beneficial about this position is that a support person, or partner, can support the woman from the front or behind by having her lean on them.

Believe it or not, even women with epidurals can sometimes be well supported enough to get in a squat position with a squat bar.   These women need to have excellent movement in their legs and always be safely assisted on either side by members of her birth team.   While many care providers have never witnessed this scenario, it can be worth it to discuss the option with them prior to birth.

Read the below excerpt on the very interesting history of birth stools.   The full version of the article by Sheila Kitzinger is available by clicking here.

“Birth stools and chairs have a long history. The medieval birth stool was a horse-shoe or boomerang shaped slab of wood on legs, without a back and without arms. A woman could sit on it and move her pelvis freely. One of the god-sibs (women birth companions) sat behind her cradling against her body and moving with her. It was a familiar, comfortable posture since women were accustomed to sitting crouched on a low stool when milking a cow or goat and spinning or weaving.

Another version, dating from the sixteenth century, was elongated so that a woman could sit behind the mother on the stool, supporting her with her body. Later solid backs were added to birth stools, and subsequently hand grips.

The birth stool is a development of birth bricks as they were used in Egypt, Persia and India and also of lap-sitting. The latter was common in Africa, Europe and South America. In the early nineteenth century a German carpenter devised a birth stool with a back to it after his wife told other pregnant women in her neighborhood how easy it had been giving birth sitting between her husband’s thighs. As a result women called on him to attend them when they were in labor. He became very popular in the town, to such a degree that he constructed a birth stool to take his place.”

Do you have photos of you or your clients using a birth stool or squat bar that you’d like to share? If so, post and/or comment below!

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