I remember when I was a child that I asked my mother how one pushes out a baby. She was straightforward and said it was a lot like going to the bathroom and pushing out a bowel movement. She couldn’t have been more correct.
It’s JUST like going to the bathroom. Ironically, you may ‘go to the bathroom’ while you’re baby birth pushing without physically intending to ‘go to the bathroom’. But we’ll talk about that later. (Many mothers even ‘breathe’ their babies out. Find out how they do here.)
Baby Birth Pushing – It’s just like defecating
I know, it sounds gross, you don’t want to talk about it, the ultimate *Eew! topic that no one prefers discussing (unless you’re a nurse or man for that matter). But all jokes aside, it is reality, it is what happens during that final phase of childbirth. It’s really like taking the biggest, hardest dump of your life.
All the muscles you are using to push out your baby are nearly the exact same that you use to push out a bowel movement, with the addition of your uterus working on your side as well.
You’ve been doing your kegel exercises up until now, so your perineal tissue is strong. This means that you can relax the area too, which is the same as what we do when we urinate as well, relaxing those muscles so excrement (and yes, babies) can come through those lower canals.
So this means that YES, you will pee….and sometimes poop while you are pushing. Some women have diarrhea in earlier stages of labor that naturally cleans out their bowels, resulting in no fecal matter to arrive, but not all.
If your water broke in the hospital, you’ve had fluid running out of you for awhile on top of that too, it’s not much different in that respect.
But I promise, your nurses and doctors see it EVERYDAY and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. By then you will be SO ready to be done that all sense of dignity will no longer matter to you anymore and it will not be a big deal…..so let’s not give it another thought.
But how do I push, really?
All in all, bearing down and holding your breath (like you’ve practiced), are the main things for when you’re pushing. But yes, it may not come as naturally as expected.
When your cervix is completely open, you will feel that differing contraction that also causes you an immense urge to push down. Your uterus will seem to contract automatically, telling you that it needs your help as well. It’s very hard to avoid and not push with.
But this is GOOD news! It means the finish line is in sight!
Let me share a little story with you. With my first baby, I pushed for a total of two and a half hours to get him out. My second baby only took half an hour of pushing. Why the difference? Because it took me about an hour to figure out just exactly HOW to push the first time. (There was a minor complication too, but you can read about the rest of that here.) At first I was just tensing and squeezing every muscle in my body as intensely as I could, thinking the more muscles contracting, the better. But I was WRONG.
The proper way to push is by ONLY using the muscles that are designed to do so–your abdominals, and breathing appropriately with them.
What you want to do is, as best you can, RELAX all other muscles not needed for pushing: your legs, arms, back, head and neck, and your perineal muscles.
Then you’re going to FOCUS ONLY on your muscles you bear down with: stomach, side abs, uterine, pelvic. You will immediately feel greater surges of that baby moving through your birth canal because your efforts are on all the correct muscles.
I’ll review these steps at the end. But we need to discuss breathing too.
How do I breathe with pushing?
When you feel that contraction rising you want to inhale deeply to capture all the air you can. Then when you start to bare down and push, lean forward, into your belly so that all the air in your lungs will add pressure to your abdominal cavity.
Then you MUST hold your breath as long as you can. Now DON’T pass out! But you’ve been practicing holding your breaths for around 10 seconds or so. Have your nurse or husband count down from 10 as you hold your breath. If you don’t make it all the way, that’s okay, it’s just a way to pass through the moment.
When you’re out of air, lean back and QUICKLY take in another deep breath, leaning forward again and pushing. Continually do this throughout the entire contraction. You’ll get in probably three to five breaths for each one.
When the contraction is over, rest COMPLETELY, relaxing everything to conserve your energy. It will take a few tries to get the feeling quite right, but once you know, you’ll know for life.
I still need a little help
If you’re able to squat, rely on leaning against your husband and nurse as much as you can so that you spend the least amount of energy holding yourself upright. If you’re sitting upright, have your husband and nurse hold back your legs so that you can relax them fully. Or try using a peanut ball for better support.
It’s scientifically shown that your pelvis and vaginal opening are wider when you’re squatting or with your legs pulled as far back as they can go.
If making grunts and noises helps, then by all means! You won’t care what you sound like at the moment.
But be SURE that you are UPRIGHT! Why fight against gravity? (You CAN be on your side and still be propped up successfully.) Plus, there is better blood flow to the baby while they’re getting the squeezing of their life. Your uterus can contract stronger and more effectively as well.
The Steps to Remember
When you feel that bearing down contraction coming on:
- Lean back and take a DEEP breath.
- Lean forward, adding lung pressure to your abdominal muscles.
- Bear down and push with only the proper muscles.
- Relax your legs, arms, neck and head.
- Relax your perineal muscles like you’re trying to pee.
- Hold your breath for around 10 seconds.
- Exhale quickly, lean back and repeat.
- When the contraction ends, relax completely until the next one.
You can practice these steps WITHOUT the actual pushing while you’re pregnant so get the methodology down so you know the steps to take when the time comes. There may be another few things that will help you that only you’ll be able to read about from others or that you learn in the moment.
Your recovery is just right around the corner and there are more things you can do during your pushing to help you recover faster.
After baby is out, ask your doctor what their Apgar score is so you know immediately how your baby is doing.
Ladies, what other things have you found help you with pushing? Please share and keep practicing. Happy pushing!