Experiencing the birth of your child is a special and unique experience. No two deliveries are alike and there is no way to predict with total accuracy how your delivery will go. However, we can predict the stages you will go through during labor and childbirth and what you can generally expect. Childbirth involves three stages:
First stage: Starts with the onset of true labor and lasts until the cervix is completely dilated to 10 cm.
Second stage: Continues after the cervix is dilated to 10 cm until the delivery of your baby.
Third stage: Delivery of your placenta.
The second stage of childbirth involves pushing and the delivery of your baby. Until this point your body has been doing all the work for you. Now that your cervix has fully dilated to 10 cm, it is time for you to help by pushing.
Pushing and what to expect:
- The second stage can last from 20 minutes to 2 hours
- Contractions will last about 45-90 seconds at intervals of 3-5 minutes rest in between
- You will have a strong natural urge to push
- You will feel strong pressure at your rectum
- You are likely to have a minor bowel or urination accident
- Your baby’s head will eventually crown (become visible)
- You will feel a burning, stinging sensation during crowning
- During crowning you will be told by your health care provider to not push
Pushing and what to do:
- Get into a pushing position that uses gravity to your advantage
- Push when you feel the urge
- Relax your pelvic floor and anal area (Kegel exercises can help)
- Rest between contractions to help regain your strength
- Use a mirror to view your progress (This can be very encouraging!)
- Use all your energy to push
- Do not become discouraged if your baby’s head emerges and then slips back into the vagina (this process can take two steps forward and one step back)
Tips for the support person:
- Help her to relax and be as comfortable as possible. Give her ice chips if available and provide physical support in her position.
- Encourage, encourage, encourage!
- Help guide her through her contractions.
- Give verbal encouragement by telling her how well she is doing.
- Don’t be offended if she displays anger or becomes emotional.
What your baby is doing:
While you are experiencing labor, your baby is taking certain steps to enter this world.
1. Your baby’s head will turn to one side and the chin will automatically rest on the chest so that the back of the head can lead the way.
2. Once you are fully dilated, your baby’s head leads the way and the head and torso begin to turn to face your back as they enter your vagina.
3. Next your baby’s head will begin to emerge or “crown” through the vaginal opening.
4. Once your baby’s head is out, the head and shoulders will again turn to face your side, allowing your baby to easily slip out.
Delivery and what to expect:
Keep in mind that your baby has been soaking in a sac of amniotic fluid for nine months. Following the contractions and passage through your very narrow birth canal, the baby will display the following characteristics:
- Cone-shaped head
- Vernix coating (cheesy substance that coats the fetus in the uterus)
- Puffy eyes
- Lanugo (fine downy hair that cover the shoulders, back, forehead, and temple)
- Enlarged genitals
Compiled using information from the following sources:
William’s Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 17.
Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide. Simkin, Penny, P.T., et al, Ch. 9.