The Stages of Labor and Birth in a Vaginal Delivery

Second Stage

Pushing and Birth

The second stage of childbirth begins when the cervix is fully dilated. It lasts about an average of one-half hour to two hours in first-time moms. In subsequent births, it may last anywhere from a few minutes to two hours.

What You May Experience:

The overwhelming urge to bear down continues, and as soon as your cervix is fully dilated, your practitioner will probably give you the go ahead to push. Contractions don't stop now, though they often come farther apart. Some women experience nausea and vomiting. As you begin pushing, you may become increasingly breathless and fatigued -- you are getting what is likely the hardest workout of your life. You may feel intense pain around your vaginal and perineal areas as the baby's head crowns, or protrudes at its widest part outside the vaginal opening. If you have an episiotomy (an incision made in the area between the vagina and the rectum to widen the vaginal opening) it will probably happen at this point. You may be asked to push more gently or slowly as the rest of your baby's head and body emerge. Finally, with one last push, your baby is out in the world!

What You Can Do:

When you get the green light, push! Make sure your practitioner or labor nurse tells you the best way to breathe and to push. You want to make every movement count at this point. Follow their lead and hang in there -- you're about to meet your baby.

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