Background: The physical positions that are adopted by women during childbirth significantly impact their childbirth outcomes and experiences. Literature studies have associated using a squatting position with reduced childbirth pain and increased comfort and pushing efficiency. However, the major disadvantage of the squatting position is that women may lack the muscular fitness and stamina necessary to sustain this position for a long period.
Purpose: The aim of this study was to compare the pushing experiences and birth outcomes of three different pushing positions during the second stage of labor.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted at a regional teaching hospital in northern Taiwan. Data were collected from 168 primiparous women during the 38th to 42nd gestational weeks. None of the participants received epidural analgesia during labor, and all were free of pregnancy and labor-related complications. During labor, after full cervical dilation and when the fetal head had descended to at least the +1 station and had turned to the occiput anterior position, the experimental group was asked to push in the squatting position while using the ergonomically designed ankle support. For purposes of comparison, Comparison Group A was asked to push in the squatting position without the use of the support, and Comparison Group B was asked to push in a standard semirecumbent position. All of the participants completed a demographic and obstetrics data sheet, the short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire, and the Labor Pushing Experience scale within 4 hours postpartum.
Results: In terms of delivery time, the duration between the start of pushing to crowning for the experimental group (squatting with ankle supports) averaged 25.79 minutes less (F = 6.02, p < .05) than the time for Comparison Group B (semirecumbent). The duration between the start of pushing to infant birth averaged 25.21 minutes less for the experimental group than for Comparison Group B (F = 6.14, p < .05). Moreover, the experimental group had a lower average visual analog scale pain score (5.05 ± 3.22) than Comparison Group B (F = 42.67, p < .001), and the average McGill pain score for the experimental group was lower than both comparison groups (F = 18.12, p < .001). The participants in the group that delivered from a squatting position with ankle support had better labor pushing experiences than the comparison groups (F = 14.69, p < .001).
Conclusions/implications for practice: In comparison with both unsupported squatting and semirecumbent pushing, squatting with the aid of ergonomically designed ankle supports reduced pushing times, ameliorated labor pain, and improved the pushing experience. Thus, this intervention may reduce the caring needs of women during the second stage of labor. This intervention may be introduced in midwifery education programs and in clinical practice as a method to improve the care of women during the second stage of labor.