Is there an impact of feet position on squatting birth position? An innovative biomechanical pilot study

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019 Jul 19;19(1):251. doi: 10.1186/s12884-019-2408-2.


Background: The squatting birth position is widely used for "natural" birth or in countries where childbirth occurs in non-medical facilities. Squatting birth positions, like others, are roughly defined so a biomechanical assessment is required with the availability of noninvasive technology in pregnant women. In practice, we can observe spontaneously two kinds of squatting birth position: on tiptoes and with feet flat.

Objective: To compare the impact of foot posture on biomechanical parameters considered essential in obstetrical biomechanics during a squatting birth position: on tiptoes versus with feet flat on the floor.

Study design: Thirteen pregnant women beyond 32 weeks of gestational age who were not in labor were assessed during squatting birth position firstly spontaneously and secondly with the foot posture that was not taken spontaneously (on the tiptoes vs with feet flat). For each position, ANGle of flexion on the spine of the plane of the pelvis external conjugate (ANGec), hip flexion and abduction, and lumbar curve were assessed using an optoelectronic motion capture system and a biomechanical model adapted from the conventional gait model as well as a measuring system of the lumbar curve.

Results: Spontaneously, 11 out of 13 women squatted on tiptoe at the first test. On tiptoes the hip flexion was lower than with feet flat (p < 0.02), whereas hip abduction was not significantly different (p = 0.28). A lower ANGec angle (p = 0.003) was noticed for the tiptoe position than feet flat. The lumbar curve (lordosis) was more marked for the squatting position on tiptoes than for the position with feet flat (p < 0.001). On tiptoes no woman had a pelvic inlet plane perpendicular to the spine and none had a flat back or kyphosis. No woman on tiptoes fulfilled the two conditions necessary for the position that we consider optimal.

Conclusion: In squatting birth position, foot posture has a biomechanical impact on lumbar curve and pelvic orientation. When comparing squatting positions (on tiptoes vs feet flat), feet flat on the ground is closer to optimal birth conditions than on tiptoes.

Keywords: Biomechanics; Feet posture; Lumbar curve; Motion capture system; Pelvic inlet plane; Squatting birth position.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Labor Presentation*
  • Lower Extremity / physiology
  • Musculoskeletal Physiological Phenomena*
  • Parturition*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Posture
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods
  • Range of Motion, Articular