Pregnant women have long been told that staying upright and mobile during childbirth will help labour progress smoothly.
Now a hospital in the US is trialling a new birthing sling in the hope of promoting movement during labour and reducing the number of caesarean section deliveries.
The new birthing aid is a soft ribbon of cloth that dangles from an 'O' ring attached to the ceiling. The sling is capable of holding more than 225 kilograms and supports the expecting mother in an upright position while she labours.
The Birthplace at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital is the only labour and delivery unit in the state to offer the sling.
"It helps women feel empowered during labour because they're not lying down - they're upright playing an active role in delivery," hospital Midwife Carrie Neerland said.
"It increases a woman's control and allows them to be more mobile."
Despite the benefits of the sling, it is not recommended for use by all women.
Midwife Helena Jelinek, who helped plan for and install the slings, said women need to be healthy and capable of supporting their own weight during labour in order to use the device.
The sling may also be inappropriate for women with some high-risk pregnancy conditions, such as high blood pressure.
Ms Jelinek said the slings were installed as part of the hospital's efforts to reduce caesarean sections.
"The freedom to move during labour is important to many women," Ms Jelinek said.
"By moving the bed to the side of the room and utilising the birth slings, yoga mats and birth balls, women have the option of being upright and moving through their labour.
"The use of labour slings fits nicely with our goal to reduce our rate of C-section births, and gives our mums increased options to promote a vaginal birth."
While it is believe the hospital is one of the first in the US to use this type of birth sling, the devices are more common in some European countries.