Pushing during labor.
Over 38k moms have shared my post on how to push during labor, so it is clear that this is one of the things that many many moms think about in the weeks leading up to the big day.
If you’re reading this, you probably want to know how to do it, how it feels, how long it will last, will you poop, etc etc…
As a mom, I totally get wanting to know all the ins and the outs of pushing during labor because I’ve been there!
But, I can definitely tell you that it’s something you’ll have to experience on your own.
I do have to add though that it is much easier than it seems— just needed to get that out of the way!
Though all of our experiences will be unique, and we all won’t really know what it’s like until were actually in the trenches, there are some things that we should all know beforehand, about pushing during labor.
1) You’ll Probably Poop During Labor
Yes it’s true.
But the good part about this is no one cares.
Your nurse, your midwife, and anybody else that is part of your birth team have already witnessed this (called “Code Brown” for obvious reasons) hundreds of times.
Pooping during labor is a good indicator that you are pushing the right way, because giving birth is quite honestly very similar to taking the biggest poop of your life (sounds gross but it’s true).
If you poop When you poop, they will clean you up so fast, you won’t even have time to be embarrassed!
In fact, the clean-up is so fast that some moms don’t even notice!
No one is going to make a big deal about it, and they probably won’t even comment. So don’t let this distract you from birth and make you make you push incorrectly.
I pushed long and hard because I was terrified of pooping and I hurt my pelvic floor!
The second time around, I didn’t care about this and had a super smooth labor. No strains, no injuries.
2) It Should Not Be Done On Your Back
When you think of a woman giving birth, you’re probably picturing her in a reclined position, flat on her back with her knees pulled all the way back.
Well, I don’t blame you because this is still the most commonly assumed position during the second stage of labor.
Over 65% of women give birth on their backs!
Although the dorsal lithotomy position is the most common pushing position, it is one of the worst positions for labor.
Studies have shown that this position is responsible for many complications and injuries obtained during labor, such as:
- Anal incontinence
- Sexual Dysfunctions
- Symphysis Pubic Disorder (SPD)
- Slow labor and weakened contractions
- Smaller pelvis- Laying down reduces the size of your pelvic outlet by up to a whopping 30%!
- Causes mom to push harder, increasing chances of tearing during childbirth, exhaustion, and pelvic floor injuries
- Increased pain during labor
- Increased chance of wanting painkillers
- Can cause low blood pressure in mom and cause the baby to go into distress which can lead to a C-section
- Places birth canal in a position that forces mom to push harder since baby is forced to travel upwards
- Due to the complications this position can cause, it also increases the risk of medical intervention such as the use of forceps and such as the administration of Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin)
So with all of that being, why are most women still birthing in this position?
Well, the truth is, most women give birth in a hospital setting.
Giving birth in that position is more of a matter of convenience for your birth team than anything else. They want to have easier access in case anything happens.
But honestly, the majority of natural births are straightforward. In a true physiological and low-risk birth where the woman is left to labor as she pleases, the risks of complications are low.
Even in the event of a complication, it isn’t hard for the birth team to access whatever tools they need to access.
So there really is no need for anyone to have a full view of what’s going on down there the entire time.
One of my friends gave birth while half-standing and no one knew (not even her doula) that she was giving birth.
By the time she said she felt something was between her legs, they looked, and her baby girl was right there! Her entire head was already out.
Baby girl was just chilling! No one saw anything, no one needed to see anything. It was amazing!
Try out different labor positions and see what you feel most comfortable with. If you feel you need a little reminder of what to do during labor, grab a copy of The Natural Labor Playbook for only $7.
3) Things Go Faster After The First Baby
If you’ve already given birth once, your subsequent births will likely be faster.
On average, first labors typically last 18 hours, while second labors tend to last about 8 hours.
I like to think that the first baby paves the way for the next one. Maybe literally.
Your hips will be wider, and your muscles and ligaments will be looser since they’ve already gone through the process of labor. Your cervix will also dilate faster.
4) Coached & Purple Pushing Are No Good!
Coached pushing is what happens when you are told when and how to push during labor, while holding your breath, once you reach 10cm dilation.
It’s one of the things you should avoid for a successful natural birth!
Maternal pushing or spontaneous pushing is when you push as you are led to push by your body’s own natural urges.
Coached pushing during labor should ideally be avoided because it goes against your body’s natural urges, thus increasing the risk of experiencing complications and injuries during labor such as pelvic floor, bladder, and perineum injuries.
Following your body’s natural urges is key to having a successful natural birth. (Unless your baby is in distress or there are complications present. In which case — coached pushing is helpful.)
This makes perfect sense because if you really think about it, in a natural birth, only you have the ability to feel what is occurring within your body.
If you feel like you need to push, go ahead. If you don’t, relax and let your body do what it does best!
Some moms can breathe their babies out without pushing at all, while others can’t control the powerful (and I mean powerful) urge to push.
As long as you are following your body’s lead and are not being coached (again, unless necessary), the chances of experiencing complications are really low.
The benefits of spontaneous pushing include:
- Energy preservation
- Reducing your risk of tearing during labor
- keeping your baby happy and not in distress
- Better APGAR scores for baby
- Faster 2nd stage of labor
- Allows your labor to progress at a safe pace
- Gives your tissues the time they need to open up and stretch
All of these benefits of spontaneous pushing during labor will help you have a quicker and easier postpartum recovery.
5) You May Not Even Feel Like Pushing
You may not feel like pushing once you are 10cm dilated.
And guess what?
There is nothing wrong with that. Again, your body will do what it needs to do when it needs to do it!
As long as you and baby are both doing well during labor, there is usually no need to rush. If you feel like resting, rest!
Childbirth can be exhausting, so you can use any “spare time” you have to really relax and just be in the moment.
There is a stage during labor called the ‘rest and be thankful’ stage (this, along with all stages of labor, is covered in The Natural Labor Playbook). This is where you are fully dilated and your contractions really slow down or stop altogether for about an hour or so.
During this time, your body and baby are both at work, opening up and rotating to further prepare for birth.
Rather than over-exerting yourself during this time rest.
Soon after this stage of rest, the urge to push will resume and your baby will make its way into the world!
6) You May Not Be Able To Control The Urge
This is a good thing because you should NOT be trying to control your contractions. These real moms who shared what labor contractions really feel like will all tell you that it’s an impossible task!
In an undisturbed, natural physiological birth, the urge to push can be so powerful that it is nearly impossible to hold back.
And that’s a good thing. Your body is doing what it is supposed to do to birth your baby.
For me, that urge was so strong all I could do was ease into my contractions (in other words, not resist), by pushing as my body led me to push.
Holding them back would have probably made me explode. Seriously.
If you feel the urge to push, push. Initially, you might feel like resisting those contractions because they can be so strong, but that would be the wrong thing to do.
To give you a better understanding, imagine falling from a distance. Your natural response would be to brace for impact by tensing up your body.
This would be the right thing to do in that situation because you want to limit the risk of injury once you hit the ground.
But during labor, you want to completely avoid tensing your body, by giving into your contractions and not resisting them. Don’t brace, relax!
Resisting your contractions will cause unnecessary stress and tension to build up in your body and cause you to experience more pain.
**The only time where you shouldn’t push through your contractions is when baby’s head starts crowning and you begin to experience a burning sensation.
At this point, you will need to stop pushing and give your vaginal tissues the time they need to stretch. This will keep you from tearing.
7) You Don’t Actually Have To Push During Labor
I saved this one for last because I mean, it’s pretty neat! To think that you actually don’t have to push during labor…..
That’s amazing! And good news, it’s true!
A woman’s body would even be able to birth her baby on its own if she were in a comatose state.
From your cervix ripening, effacing, and dilating, to your uterus contracting and expelling your baby and placenta, all of these physiological processes can take place without your active participation.
That’s right, you really don’t have to push consciously during labor!
So erase every image you have in your head of women on TV pushing till they are purple in the face. Do it now!
Because that’s just not how it has to be.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t push during labor, I’m saying you don’t have to if you don’t feel the need to — yep, even when you reach 10cm dilation (as long as both you and baby are coping well)!
You can and should push properly during labor if you feel the need to, but if you don’t it doesn’t mean that something is wrong.
As we discussed earlier, in a natural birth, your body will communicate its needs and you will know how to respond accordingly.
Let your body do what it does best and flow through the birthing process as best as you can.
Check out these three amazing moms who gave birth while being in a coma:
- Mom in a medically induced coma gives birth
- Mom in coma for 8 months gives birth
- Mom in medically induced coma gives birth
Some mamas like myself may actually find relief by pushing. I felt an immense amount of pressure in my bottom once I was fully dilated.
The only way I was able to relax and ease that pressure was by pushing.
My body felt like pushing. So I did.
That’s the beauty of listening to your body and following its innate birthing wisdom.
Take the Guesswork Out of Labor With My Natural Birth Toolkit
Are you worried you might forget all of your labor prep and info… during labor?! Grab The Natural Labor Playbook, your ultimate labor cheat sheet for natural-minded mamas for only $7!Learn More