What to expect during the second stage of labor
The second stage of active labor is when you finally get to react to those strong contractions. Contractions are like signals to push, and as the second stage of active labor begins, you will feel the need to push stronger than ever before. If your cervix is not dilated and effaced 100%, the attending physician or nurse may advise you to hold off on pushing for a bit. This can be one of the hardest tasks since pressure on the pelvic floor is like a primal signal to push until the pressure subsides. Breathing through each contraction is essential during this time until the cervix is fully prepared.
When is the right time to push?
Some doctors and hospitals advise you to push through every contraction during the second stage of active labor. Contraction of the uterus is the body’s natural expelling process; each contraction moves the baby further down the birth canal. This movement will happen whether or not you push. Some babies move fast and others take their time. If you want to wait for a strong urge to push, you will need to talk about this decision with your physician before the second stage of labor begins.
When the urge to push hits, your natural birthing instincts will take over. As each contraction begins, you need to take a deep, cleansing breath and bear down as if you are trying to pass a large bowel movement. The same muscles that control bowel movements also control childbirth. As the pressure and pain ease off, you need to take another cleansing breath and wait for the next contraction. Pushing in between contractions is just a waste of energy as the uterus is only going to work when contractions are in full effect.
The second stage of active labor ends with the delivery of the baby. After the head crowns, one more push is often all that is needed to deliver the head. Most doctors will ask you to breathe through the next contraction so the physician can clear the throat of amniotic fluid and mucus. A couple of final pushes are all that remain until the birthing process is over.