Second stage of labour
The second stage of labour is when your baby is born. Just like the first stage, everyone experiences the second stage of labour differently. This stage can last from a few minutes (especially in second or subsequent labours) or up to three hours. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you will be pushing for three hours straight!
Some women won’t feel the urge to push when they are fully dilated. This can be due to your baby’s position and how high they are in the birth canal. Often your baby just needs a bit of time – sometimes changing your position can help your baby to move lower and trigger the urge to push.
The length of the second stage of labour will also depend on how your baby is reacting to the pushing, which position they are in, how well you are, and how effective your contractions are. There are times when your baby will need help to be born, either through an assisted or caesarean birth. If your team thinks this is necessary, they will discuss this with you.
During the second stage, women often feel that they can’t carry on, but most women find new strength, determination and energy to continue pushing when they know their baby will be born soon. If your labour has been very long and you really are struggling to keep going, the staff will talk to you about your options to help deliver your baby safely.
You will be supported by your team midwife to breathe slowly or pant as your baby’s head is being born. They will then help you birth your baby by delivering their shoulders. Once your baby is born, you should be able to hold them right away, as long as they are well.
Birth partners often cut the cord. The midwife will guide you through this, so don’t worry.
All babies are encouraged to have skin-to-skin contact with their parents as soon as possible. This promotes bonding between you and your baby. If you plan to breastfeed, you should be able to try feeding your baby right away.
Not all babies are born a pink colour, and some may not cry immediately. Try not to worry if this is the case. Your midwife may tell you that your baby needs some help to take their first breath. Midwives and neonatologists (doctors who specialise in caring for babies) are highly experienced in dealing with these situations.