Pushing – The 2nd Stage

“Pushing was like swimming under water–when you want to come up for air you can usually stay just a little longer. So when I’d feel like giving up during a push, I’d say to myself, “Push a little harder, this may be the one!” ~ Deborah Flowers

The ebbs and flows, challenges and triumphs of labor will at some point give way, and you will feel a change. This change may well mean you are fully dilated to 10 centimeters and your baby is nice and low presenting upon your perineum. This means you are ready to push.

You may not have a choice, because for some women the fetal ejection reflex is so compelling a feeling that you MUST push. Some mothers feel like they are pooping a watermelon! Don’t worry, your vagina was designed to stretch. Your baby’s head is molding to fit perfectly.

Some laboring mothers may feel the urge to push, before their cervix is fully dilated. Waiting until this feeling passes can be super challenging.

Breathing During Labor

Even if you have never given birth before, you understand intuitively that breathing plays an important role during the process. Your breathe actually helps the baby stay oxygenated and more comfortable, and it does the same for you.

There is no right or wrong way to breath during labor, but your midwife or care provider may instruct to breath in various ways during different stages of labor. You may practice different types of breathing throughout your pregnancy so you will understand what is being asked of you when labor gets intense.

  • Slow, gentle breathing helps you stay relaxed. Take a long, slow breath through your nose. Let it our slowly, blowing through your mouth.
  • Panting: Take quick, shallow breaths, rapidly breathing in and out. You may be asked to do this during the last moments of pushing before the baby comes out. This can slow down the baby’s passage as it comes out of your vagina and prevent you from tearing.
  • Strong blowing: Blow hard and fast.


You may find that to stay comfortable you will want to move, change positions. Your midwife or care provider may suggest changing positions to facilitate movement of the baby down the birth canal. There is no preset pattern. It can be different for every woman. Still, there are positions that work and have best proven over centuries of time and across cultures.  See examples of Labor and Birth Positions During

Pee if you can, because a full bladder can make you feel a lot of pressure down below, on your perineum.

Ask your birth companions, family and/or doula, to massage your back and legs.

Hold on, if you can dilate to 7 or 8 centimeters, you will dilate to 10.

water-lotus_birthIf you are planning a Water Birth, and you tub is ready, getting in the water can give you so much relief that the urge to push, before full dilation can be handled better.

Some mothers, especially those who are not having a first baby, may wish not to consciously push, but to allow their baby to emerge, pushed only by the force of the contractions of her uterus. During the 2nd stage, you and your midwives will know if this is the best way for you and your baby.

Some mothers, like me, can feel like they are at the end of their strength, only to find that baby is very low and the cervix is full dilated.

They may push! Wow, that pushing feels like, “I am amazing, labor is not doing me, I am pushing, I am fierce and strong and on top of this. YES, I can birth this Baby! I found pushing was less painful that not pushing. It was a triumph to push my baby into the light.

“At the moment of birth, there is a rare and brief glimpse of the connection between this world and another, of before and after, of mortal and immortal, of spiritual and physical, of known and unknown.” ~ Ida Darragh

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