When you're thinking about the baby delivery process one part probably stands out in your mind: the whole pushing-a-human-out-of-your-body part. After all, it certainly seems like the most strenuous moment of the entire labor and delivery ordeal. But how long do women push on average when delivering a baby? For better or worse, your actual delivery process won't really look much like the depictions on movies and TV shows.
Before calculating how long the average woman pushes during labor, it's important to understand the different stages of labor and what they mean. The first stage of labor begins with contractions and the cervix's dilation, whereas the second stage of pregnancy occurs when the cervix is fully dilated, according to BabyCenter. This second stage is when all of the pushing will take place, and it ends with the birth of your baby. Lastly, the third stage ends with the placenta's delivery, as further explained in BabyCenter. These quick descriptions make the whole delivery process sound like a piece of cake, right?
As with everything else about pregnancy and delivery, the exact amount of time a woman pushes varies from case to case. In general, though, first-time mothers will push for one or two hours, according to Sutter Health. For the most part, first-time moms or those with epidurals take longer to push out a baby, according to the Mayo Clinic. Subsequent babies can require shorter pushing spells, but course every pregnancy is different.
If this sounds like an overwhelming amount of time, just remember that some moms find the pushing stage preferable to the other phases of pregnancy. In fact, some moms find that bearing down during the push makes contractions easier to handle, according to BabyCenter. Then again, other moms dislike the whole pushing sensation, and that's OK, too. The experience is a little different for everyone.
Also, if you find the idea of a half-dozen people screaming at you to push overwhelming, remember that you're in control of the birth process. Although coaching though delivery still occurs, mothers are finding more reasons to set their own pace when it comes to pushing. Women in the second stage of pregnancy are encouraged to follow their own urge to push, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, directed pushing instructions from someone else might not even provide a benefit, as further noted by the WHO. Trusting your body's cues is crucial.
Lastly, it's important to remember that the pushing phase won't last forever, even if it feels that way in the moment. After two or three hours of pushing, the doctor or nurse may use forceps and a vacuum extractor to help guide the baby out, as noted in Healthline. The fatigue associated with delivery can be pretty intense, and sometimes the baby is just a super tight fit no matter what you're doing. But if you are nervous about pushing for too long, just remember that it's unlikely you'll hit the four-hour mark, or at least anything too far beyond that, without some additional help. For most moms, once the pushing starts, the baby will arrive within a couple of hours. Just hang in there.