Those last few weeks of pregnancy can be really scary right?
That’s because giving birth means facing your fear of the unknown.
I’m telling you mama, whether this is your first or your fourth pregnancy, the anxiety you feel about what will happen during birth never passes you by.
Let’s face it you know your birth is going to be hard work.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of the ‘ring of fire’, and doesn’t that just sound like literal hell.
The good news is that you can prep so you have some tricks up your sleeve to make your labour a lot easier.
This guide will focus on tips to help you survive the second stage of labor.
That’s the part when you reach 10cm dilation and you’re ready to start pushing your baby out.
You know the dramatic part that movies and TV shows love.
But let’s forget the drama. I find most moms like the second stage better than the first stage contractions as you feel like you’re actually ‘doing something’.
If you’re not quite ready for stage two click here to find tips on surviving the first stage of labor (that’s the slower part with all the contraction).
This article is great for your partner to read too as it can give them a better idea of what to expect during this part of labor and how they can help you out.
Ok, let’s get started.
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14 Ways to survive the second stage of labor
1. Take raspberry leaf tea
The good thing about you reading this tip now is that you’re hopefully not already labor.
Or at least not pushing yet! I’d be super impressed if you were.
If you’re around 32-36 weeks pregnant I’d recommend you start drinking raspberry leaf tea every day.
If your pregnancy is high risk check this with your obstetrician first.
Raspberry leaf tea has been used for centuries to help with women’s issues and one of the benefits is to speed up the second stage of labor.
It works by stimulating the muscles around the uterus, so it’s best to hold off using it until the last few weeks of pregnancy.
Ideally, you’d start by drinking one cup a day until you build up to 3 cups a day.
I was really sceptical of using raspberry leaf tea with my first pregnancy but of all three of my labors the hardest one was the only one which I didn’t drink the raspberry leaf tea.
Perhaps that was just luck, but I know if I have another baby I’ll be sipping that tea as soon as I hit those 32 weeks.
2. learn to breath
This tip sounds so simple but honestly if you take one piece of advice from this guide, make it this one.
One of the things I’m constantly telling labouring mom is ‘remember to breath’.
Think about it, imagine you’re walking around the house barefooted and you bang your toes against a piece of furniture. What’s the first thing you do?
That’s right you inhale in and hold your breath. It’s an instinct.
When you feel the pain of contractions you tense up because you know the pain is coming and then you hold your breath.
Holding your breath actually raises your blood pressure and can make the contractions feel worse.
Once your baby’s head starts to emerge you want to slow down.
The best advice I’ve heard is to do small controlled breathes as I’ve your blowing out a candle.
Imagine it as if you’re blowing out the candles on your baby’s birthday cake.
It sounds silly but this controlled breathing during the second stage will relax your internal muscles and make it easier for baby to pass through your pelvis.
3. don’t be scared to poop
One of the biggest fear I hear from labour moms is that they will poop as they push.
I know it’s probably played on your mind since you found it was even a ‘thing’.
Let’s face it, no one wants to do a poo in front of a room of other people.
The reason you’re afraid of pooping as you push is you expressing that you’re afraid of losing control during birth.
Don’t listen to those people that say ‘your dignity will go out the door in labor’, because it absolutely doesn’t have to.
I will reassure you by saying that:
- Your medical professional will not care. It’s fairly common and they’ll be super discreet about cleaning it up quickly.
- Passing stools in labour actually means your pushing in the right place and freeing up room for your baby’s head to come out.
If the thought still scares the living daylights out of you then you can check out my guide on how to prevent pooping during birth.
4. get yourself in a good position
Birth positions have been a highly debated topic in birth circles for years.
There are benefits and drawback to all different types of positions during the pushing stage.
What we do know is that when women give birth without any interference they will instinctively stay in an upright position as they push their baby out.
I’d recommend an upright position if you don’t have an epidural as this can slightly reduce your second stage. This is usually standing, kneeling, squatting or sitting upright.
Any position that encourages gravity to help your baby out will make it easier for baby to get around the boney turns in your pelvis.
When you’re lying on your back or with feet in stirrups your working against gravity which is hard work for you and baby.
If you need to have an epidural the best position is lying on your side with your leg supported open. This will open up your pelvis and make room for baby.
Ask your birth centre what options they have for moms with an epidural as modern equipment like birth bars can help you to mobile but with support.
5. use a warm compress
When your baby’s head starts to emerge that’s called crowning.
Most moms will describe this as the ‘ring of fire’ because of the intense burning sensation you’ll feel down below.
This feeling is caused by your baby’s head stretching the skin around your vagina and perineum (that flat but of skin between your vagina and butt).
You may find that a warm face cloth or a compress held onto the perineum as you push will help to ease this pain.
Another great side effect of using a warm compress is that you reduce your risk of having any vaginal tearing as your baby is born.
If you buy the reusable perineal compresses you can use then for your postpartum recovery too.
6. make some noise
Giving birth is an extreme workout.
The thought of making weird noises in front of others may make you feel uncomfortable.
The good news is that making noise during labor can help relieve your pain. However, it has to be the right type of noise.
It may sound weird that there is a right and wrong type of noise to make, so let me explain.
Low, deep almost animalistic moans and grunts will keep your jaw loose which helps your body to relax, including your perineal muscles.
If you go full-on high pitched wailing, your body is going to go into fight or flight mode and tense your muscles.
You’ll find yourself making incontrollable grunting noises as you push your baby out.
Try to make sure these grunts are directed toward your bottom and not into your throat otherwise you’re gonna wonder why you’ve lost your voice the next day.
7. Avoid Directed Pushing
When your baby is ready to be born, you’re going to experience how amazing your body really is.
That means you won’t need to be told when to push because your body is going to do it automatically.
That’s right you’ll start to push uncontrollably and won’t be able to stop the sensation.
Some medical practitioners still like to give ‘directed pushing’ instructions. That means telling you to hold your breath and push for a certain period of time.
Although direct pushing isn’t all bad, it can really help if you have no sensation from an epidural.
If you haven’t had an epidural it’s best to follow your instinct and push when your body tells you to.
Carry on with instinctive pushing until your baby’s head begins to crown and then with supported pushing.
This means your birth attendant following your lead when you are pushing, but talking you through to keep you focused and in control.
That’s where you’ll need to use your candle breaths we discussed above along with little pushes.
It may be tempting to give one almighty push to get the birth over and done with. However, encouraging small controlled pushes will help your baby’s head to slowly stretch up your skin and reduce the risk they tear you a new one.
8. don’t clock watch
Giving birth can take a long time, especially if it’s your first baby.
I blame the media who make out that your water break and your baby arrives 5 minutes later.
During the first stage, you’re counting down the hours until you finally get told you are 10 cm.
That means you’re ready to push right?
Well not quite.
Everyone focused on their contraction getting them to 10cm, however you contracts also need to make sure you baby’s head is far into your pelvis.
If your baby’s head is still high up in your pelvis when you get to 10cm you’re going to exhaust yourself trying to push your baby out.
If this happens you’ll probably be giving time for your baby’s head to ‘labour down’. This is usually around 1 hour.
When you do start to push you’ll have less distance to push your baby down, but this can still take up to another 1-2 hours.
And so, even once you get to fully dilated you baby can still be another couple of hours away.
So don’t watch the clock, it will only stress you out.
9. let the epidural run low
Should you opt for an epidural, you need to remember that this will numb you from the waist down.
That means when it comes time to push you might feel nothing and have no idea if you’re pushing well.
Your birth attendant may let you do some practice pushes to see or feel if your baby’s head is moving lower as you push.
If they can’t see anything, feeling your baby’s head requires a vaginal examination which you may find too invasive.
Depending on the type of epidural you have it may be possible to let the medication run low without topping up before you push.
This can help you gain back some sensation so you to feel a little more and feel more in control and push better.
It’s best to discuss this with your caregivers as going too long between top-ups can you’re your epidural wear off completely meaning you’ll have little to no relief as you push.
10. No Routine Cuts
You probably already know that a vaginal birth means there is a risk that you may tear as baby’s head is born.
Some hospital will perform a routine vaginal cut (episiotomy) to try and prevent a severe tear happing.
This practice is outdated and studies have shown that a routine episiotomy can cause a larger tear. Plus you’ll need to have vaginal stitches, which you may never have needed.
Your birth attendant should be skilled at supporting you and your baby’s head to minimise your risk of tearing.
If you’re geeking out on labor tips you can check out my guide on how to prevent tearing during birth.
11. Try perineal massage
I like to think of labor as a marathon. Its intense work for a couple of hours and you do best by training first.
One area that gets a lot of attention in labour is the perineum. That small area holds a lot of muscles, skin and tissue that work hard during pregnancy and birth.
Perineal massage is a great way to prep this area for labor. In fact, it is known to reduce the risk of you tearing, bruising or needing an episiotomy during labour.
Your postpartum recovery will be so much better if you don’t have vaginal stitches, pain or more worryingly incontinence.
You can use natural massage oils to manipulate the skin and tissue around you perineum from around 34 weeks of pregnancy.
The idea is to use your thumbs to work in a U shape to soften and stretch the tissue. This should be done once or twice a week for up to 5 minutes per massage.
12. get your baby in a good position
We’ve considered your position for pushing but you need to think about how to get your baby in the best position for pushing.
Ideally when you begin to push you want your baby to be head down with their back facing toward your tummy.
The best way to encourage this position id by using optimal fetal positioning techniques in pregnancy and during labor.
The queen of these techniques is Gail Tully over at Spinning Babies.
Gail encourages you to keep positions that allow your baby to hammock in your tummy. This is done by keeping your bump forward most of the day and not lounging backwards.
Following Gail’s birth techniques can help you and baby to keep your baby in the ideal position which makes the second stage a lot easier for you an baby.
13. sort out your birth room
Have you given much thought to your birth room environment? Does it make you feel like your somewhere clinical or does it feel homely?
A birth room which appeals to your sense and makes you feel calm and relaxed will help boost your natural oxytocin levels for you to labor better.
You’ll have a better birth if your room is
Ideally, you’ll have a birth partner who makes you feel safe and secure. You can add little touches such as essential oils, wearing our own clothes and using your own pillows.
Try to keep chat to a minimum and make sure the door and curtains are closed.
Your birth provider should make the room warm for baby arriving. Make sure they don’t turn up the room lights full whack. If they need lighting a lamp can direct light where needed whilst offering you a warm glow.
14. Get hands on
Once you baby’s head begins to crown you may instinctively want to feel what’s going on down there.
Feeling your baby’s head moving down can give you a boost that things are moving along.
If they thought of feeling your baby’s head is grossing you out, you can ask your care provider to be ‘hands-on’ during the delivery.
This usually means your Doctor or midwife will hold and guide your baby’s head to keep the speed of the delivery well controlled.
This is best used if you’re pushing too hard or your baby is simply coming too quickly and potentially causing a tear.
Studies have shown that hands-on alone doesn’t rescue your risk of tearing, however when using together with supported pushing a slow and steady delivery will reduce your risk of tearing.
I hope you found this guide useful and I’d appreciate it if you can share with any pregnant moms who would like it too.
If you have any tips you found got you though the second stage of labor please feel free to share them below and I’ll add them to the guide.
I wish you all the best for your labor.