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SECOND STAGE OF LABOUR

The second stage of labour (also called 'the pushing stage') starts when the cervix is fully open and ends when your baby is born.

• This stage can last from 10 minutes to 2 hours, but can be longer if you have had an epidural.

• Contractions during this stage may be several minutes apart.

The pushing stage feels distinctly different from the first stage because you can take a truly active role in the birth, helping your uterus push the baby out with each contraction. In the second stage there is even more benefit to being upright or on all fours. These positions improves the width of birth canal - and enable gravity to assist the birth process.

Although you will have actively encouraged your cervix to open during the earlier first stage - through movement and positioning as well as visualisation and breathing - the second stage is when you feel the urge to push and can do something about it.

What is happening

Your baby is moving from your uterus down your vagina or 'birth canal':

• As your baby's head slides out into the world, there may be a burning sensation around your vagina, or a feeling of numbness.

• If your baby's head is not coming out ("crowning"), try another position, although you will find it very hard to move at this stage.

How your midwife can help

As you feel that burning sensation around your pelvic floor, pant and try to relax your pelvic floor muscles. Work with the midwife to ease your baby into the world, panting and pushing as both you and she feel is appropriate.

Remember

Sensations and emotions at this time can be intense. Most people would agree that this is the most exciting stage in labour.

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