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Pregnancy and the Stages of Labor and Childbirth

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The Second Stage of Labor (Delivery)

The second stage of labor begins when your cervix is fully dilated at 10 centimeters. This stage continues until your baby passes through the birth canal, vagina, and is born. This stage may last two hours or longer.

Contractions may feel different from the first stage of labor -- they will slow to 2 to 5 minutes apart and last from about 60 to 90 seconds. You will feel a strong urge to push with your contractions. Try to rest as much as possible between intervals of pushing, and only push when the health care provider tells you.

Tips to help you push:

  • Try several positions -- squatting, lying on your side with your leg up, or resting on your hands and knees.
  • Take deep breaths in and out before and after each contraction.
  • Curl into the push as much as possible; this allows all of your muscles to work.

You may receive pain-relieving medications or have an episiotomy if necessary while pushing. An episiotomy is a procedure in which a small incision is made between the anus and vagina to enlarge the vaginal opening. An episiotomy may be necessary to assist the baby out quicker or to prevent large, irregular tears of the vaginal wall.

The location of your baby's head as it moves through the pelvis (called descent) is reported in a number called a station. If the baby's head has not started its descent, the station is described at minus 3 (-3). When your baby's head is at the zero station, it is at the middle of the birth canal and is engaged in the pelvis. The station of your baby helps indicate the progress of the second stage of labor.

When your baby is born, your health care provider will hold the baby with his or her head lowered to prevent amniotic fluid, mucus, and blood from getting into the baby's lungs. The baby's mouth and nose will be suctioned with a small bulb syringe to remove any additional fluid. Your health care provider will place the baby on your stomach and shortly after, the umbilical cord will be cut.

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