The Second Stage of Labor

During the second stage of labor, your cervix is fully-dilated to 10 centimeters and as your baby makes his or her way down the birth canal, your contractions may actually space out to about 2-4 minutes apart and become more regular. This may allow you to rest and take a breather briefly between contractions. Although it may be difficult, rest and save your strength for pushing.

Pushing and Delivery

At this point, the pressure on your rectum increases and the urge to push becomes overwhelming, as your baby descends. You may feel more in control once pushing begins, as well as a sense of relief to be able to play a more active role in the birth process. You may also experience a burst of renewed energy as delivery draws ever-so-close. The urge to push usually feels the strongest at the peak of a contraction, then fades toward the end.

Positioning and breathing will impact your pushing. Unless you are making significant progress, you may be advised to change positions about every half hour, which may enhance progress. Allow your partner (or support person) to help you into a semi-sitting or a semi-squatting position, which allows gravity to work for you, not against you. Squatting utilizes gravity, helping your pelvis to open up and make more room for your baby. It can also take some pressure off your back. Some hospitals even have squat bars that you can hold onto, or you can use your partner for added support.

The side-lying position may also help ease back pressure, if you are experiencing “back labor” during pushing. For this position, you or your partner may hold up your top leg. A common position for pushing is having your feet in stirrups, while lying on your back. This position is most convenient for your doctor or midwife if you need an episiotomy, although gravity doesn’t help you out much while using this position.

Whatever position you choose when pushing, take a deep breath, hold it in, bear down and concentrate. Curl into the push as much as you can, rounding your shoulders, putting your chin to your chest, allowing all of your muscles to work to help ease your baby into the world. Don’t be alarmed if you pass small amounts of urine or feces during the pushing stage, because many women do and it’s completely normal. It can even mean you are pushing effectively. Remember, every push brings you that much closer to holding your baby in your arms.


Some women want to use a mirror to see their baby’s head and may want to touch it as well. Seeing or feeling your baby’s head crown may give you added inspiration to keep pushing. Just before your baby is born, you may feel a burning, stinging or stretching sensation at the opening of your vagina. This often happens as your perineum widens to allow your baby’s head to descend (often called “crowning”) and your baby to pass through the birth canal.

As your baby’s head emerges, it typically turns to one side to allow the shoulders to align. Once your baby’s head is delivered, you may be asked to stop pushing, so his or her airway can be cleared of excess mucus, by suctioning your baby’s nose and mouth. After that’s done, your doctor or midwife may assist the rest of the body out, usually with one last push. Congratulations! You have a brand new baby!

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