Answers to common questions about pushing
If you have questions about how to push during labor, we’ve got answers – even for the embarrassing ones that may be on your mind.
How will I know it’s time to push?
Most women feel a lot of pressure in their vagina or rectum. The urge to push doesn’t always coincide with being fully dilated at 10 centimeters. If you’re cervix isn’t ready, the nurse may ask you to resist the urge to push to avoid damaging your cervix. This can be tough to do, but techniques like “candle blow” breathing – inhaling gently through your mouth then exhaling as if you’re blowing out a candle can help resist the urge. It may even feel like you have to have a bowel movement. Which brings me to the question I’m most often asked about how to push during labor.
What does pushing feel like?
You’ll still have contractions, typically about two minutes apart. When it’s time to push, your body will signal you to bear down using the muscles of your pelvic floor. Spontaneous pushing – pushing when your body gives you the urge – is beneficial for most women. Directed pushing – taking a deep breath in, holding for about 10 seconds while pushing then exhaling – may be helpful if you have an epidural and can’t feel the sensation. If you labor naturally without an epidural, you’ll be able to feel your baby as he descends through your pelvis and into your vagina. When the baby is crowning, you may feel a “ring of fire” burning/numbing sensation for a few moments.
Is lying on my back the best position to push in?
Not in most cases. According to Lamaze International, research shows that pushing in an upright position like squatting, kneeling or semi-sitting can help with: • shorter pushing stage of labor • a small decrease in the use of vacuum or forceps • fewer episiotomies • less chance of experiencing severe pain • fewer abnormal fetal heart tracings
What if I have an epidural?
Ideally you’ll be able to feel at least a little bit of sensation when it’s time to push. Epidurals can be turned up, down or even off. Some medical research indicates epidural use can hinder pushing, leading to increased need for vacuum, forceps or cesarean birth. If you want an epidural, talk to your doctor or midwife about being checked to see how far dilated you are first. This can help with decision-making. For instance, whether you’re 4 centimeters or 8 centimeters can make a big difference.
Will I poop when I push?
Maybe. If you do pass stool while pushing, it won’t be much. The nurses and doctors have seen everything, and will quickly replace the waterproof pad underneath you with a new one. If you’re worried about your partner, ask him or her to watch the baby emerge from next to you, not below. This post was written by Ami Burns,
CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE. Ami is the founder of Birth Talk. She is a childbirth educator and doula in Chicago, Illinois.