What does the second stage of labour really feel like?
Want to know every detail of the second stage of your labour? Our midwife reveals all…
Now the cervix is completely open it’s time for your baby to make his way down the birth canal – with a bit of help from you. This is the second stage of labour and, for most women, it feels completely different from the first. There’s nothing to stop the baby being born, but he won’t suddenly shoot out – he’ll make his way down gradually. Here’s how it will feel…
Better out than in
The contractions will change: they’ll no longer feel painful or tight across your bump, but will become really expulsive. That means each one will build up like before, but at its peak you’ll feel the most overwhelming urge to bear down and push.
It’s completely uncontrollable. I’ve heard mums compare these contractions to everything from sneezing to vomiting or even an orgasm. Ultimately the sensation will be unique to you, so don’t expect these extremes, just bear them in mind.
Resistance is futile
Even if you suddenly decided you didn’t want children and tried to tighten your buttocks for dear life, your body would insist on your baby being born and spontaneously push with each contraction. You don’t need to be told to push – your body will know what its doing and you just need to go with the flow. It can feel a bit overwhelming, but as long as you don’t fight the urge to push, it gets easier.
You’ll want to poo
At this point you’re likely to feel as if you need a really big poo! That’s because your baby is pushing down on your back passage making you feel you need to go. You’ll have no idea if anything comes out because it’ll feel like it’s happening anyway. At the peak of a contraction you’ll probably feel as though you’re losing control of your bowels, and that somebody is prising your buttocks apart.
Your baby’s close
Just when you’re starting to think your baby’s never going to make an appearance, your midwife will inevitably say ‘I can see some of the head now’. If you pop a finger in your vagina, or look at the baby’s head with a small mirror, it can encourage you even more and reassure you that your baby really isn’t very far away.
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Is he coming or going?
With each expulsive contraction you’ll probably feel more of your baby moving forward, and then when the contraction’s gone, he’ll move backwards a little. Imagine a tortoise poking his head out of his shell and then pulling it back in.
You'll feel the resistance as the head moves forward and back but your vagina is very lubricated so it’ll be a smooth, if tight, feeling. This movement is stretching your perineum (the area between your vagina and your back passage) nice and gently.
A bit of a squeeze
Eventually, your baby won’t retreat any more, but will continue to move forward. Now your midwife will be able to see more and more of his head, and the opening of your vagina will be stretching and thinning. This is known as crowning. Picture your head being pushed though a tight-fitting polo neck.
Out he pops
You may feel a burning sensation as your baby crowns, but it will only be for a moment, as any minute now the head will be out. It feels very different to each woman and no one can predict how it’ll be for you.
Your midwife will encourage you to use special measured breaths during the contraction to try and slow down the baby’s exit and get the head out nice and slowly: this will help to minimise tearing. Once the head is out, you’ll wait for a final contraction and with that the baby’s body will follow.
He’s all yours
Some women experience overwhelming feelings of joy and love when they first hold their slippery little newborn, but for others the truth is that they’re exhausted and just want to sleep. You’ll be encouraged to cuddle your baby against your skin, to keep him warm, but if you’d rather not then that’s also fine.
Assuming there are no problems, he’ll be placed straight on to you, unless you state otherwise. He’ll be warm and slippy and sometimes have a bit of blood or vernix (white greasy substance that kept him warm and waterproof inside of you!). He will also be wet, so the midwife will dry him and encourage you to cuddle him against your skin, which will keep him warm.
Some women say their baby has a unique subtle smell, which they adore, to the extent where they have refused to have their baby cleaned for days until the smell has gone!
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