It's easy to have some pretty seriously inaccurate, preconceived notions when it comes to labor and delivery. In fact, thanks to unrealistic depictions of childbirth on television shows and in movies, you'd be forgiven for thinking that birth only lasts as long as it takes you to scream a few obscenities at your partner. But labor can actually take a long time, and is composed of multiple stages. So, how long is the pushing stage of labor? Like almost everything involved with pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum life, it depends on a few things. After all, no two women, or two births, are completely alike.
According to BabyCenter, labor consists of three stages, including early and active labor in the first stage, the second stage where you are fully dilated and pushing your baby into the world, and the third stage which involves a new mother delivering the placenta. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), a non-profit organization that promotes pregnancy wellness, the first stage of labor is the longest, and on average can last anywhere from 8-12 hours. As stated on the APA website:
In order to begin pushing, your body has to have gone through the latent, active, and transition phase of stage one, where your cervix effaces and dilates in preparation for pushing the baby out. The latent phase tends to be 20 to 12 hours long, and, according to Penn Medicine, "The active phase is the most predictable, lasting an average of five hours in first-time others, and two hours in mothers who have given birth before." During the transition phase, as stated by Penn Medicine, "your baby is passing lower into the pelvis and deeper into the birth canal." Once that transition occurs, the first stage of birth is complete.
Once you've surpassed the latent, active, and transition phase of stage one, you'll begin stage two, which is the actual delivery of your infant child. According to Penn Medicine, "For first-time mothers, this can take two to three hours, so it's important to save your energy and pace yourself." The site goes on to report that for second babies and beyond, the second stage can last less than an hour and, sometimes, only a few minutes. It truly depends on your own body, birth, and baby.
Although you may want to get this whole "pushing another human being out of your body" stage over with as quickly as possible, your medical team may actually try to slow the birth down. This could be for a variety of reasons, including if the baby is in distress, presenting in an awkward position, or if interventions are deemed necessary. If the baby is coming too quickly, your medical team may also want you to resist the urge to push to allow your body time to catch up. As The Safe Birth Project explains, "They may also want to slow down to allow your birth canal time to stretch; that can help you avoid tearing the perineum during delivery." Patience, as with almost anything in parenting, is, sometimes, the name of the game.
During the pushing phase women experience a range of emotions and feelings, according to What To Expect. Among those feelings, What To Expect writes that, "you may now feel relieved that you can start pushing, though it's totally normal to feel embarrassed, inhibited, scared, or even frustrated."
It's important to remember that you're entitled to whatever feelings accompany the second stage of labor, and there's no reason to feel as though your emotions are atypical. Birth is an innately personal experience, and you're more than allowed to react to that experience in whatever way you see fit in the moment.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.