Your second stage of labour explained

Our midwife gives you all the information you need for the birth of your baby

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Stage Two – more contractions, the urge to push and your baby’s arrival

So, you’re fully dilated – what next? Often there’s a pause, or a ‘rest and be thankful’ stage as midwives call it, before the second stage begins. This is actually the stage when the baby will arrive. So, make the most of the break, as the contractions will soon return.

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But this time they’re joined by an overwhelming expulsive feeling to bear down and push your baby out. It’s a bit like feeling a sneeze coming and not being able to stop it.

The sensation builds and builds and at the peak of the contraction you’ll give an involuntary push to help your baby travel down your vagina.

Try not to hold your breath, go with the flow and you will naturally push two or three times with each contraction, getting your breath back in between. This stage can last anything from a few minutes to a few hours.

Once the head starts to come out (known as crowning), your midwife will advise you to breathe out rather than push. That’s to try and make the birth slow and avoid tearing. When the baby arrives, the second stage is complete and you’re a mum! 


Opening your bowels

The thought of this worries a lot of women, but it’s natural and helps to clear the bowels before or while the baby’s born. It’s very common, and often happens when your baby’s head is almost visible. Your midwife will:

  • Be prepared for and very used to it.
  • May hold a pad against your back passage to catch whatever comes out.
  • If you are birthing in water, scoop the stool out of the pool with a sieve.
  • Clear up any bloodstained mucous that you also produce.
  • Do it all routinely and discretely so no one (even you) need know.


A mum’s point of view: “It was so satisfying when he arrived!”

“I felt some burning as his head came out, then with the next contraction out slid his body. The feeling of satisfaction was huge – like having a massive poo!” said Kyrysyna Symanski, 21, from Lincoln, mum to Henryk, 3 months.


Anne’s top tip:

“Getting onto your knees, or all fours, is a great position for pushing your baby out. This way, gravity’s on your side and this stage should be shorter.”

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