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What Does It Mean To Push During Labor? It's Exactly What It Sounds Like

Unless you know for sure that you're having a C-section, I think every mom-to-be thinks about going into labor, especially that whole pushing thing. I mean, every TV show or movie depicting a pregnant woman shows her bearing down (not a hair out of place) and grunting with all of her might as she tries to push a baby out of her vagina. Depending on your experience with other pregnant women, those might be your only references to pushing and, to be honest, it's not much. So what does it mean to push during labor? Can you rely on that Friends episode of Rachel giving birth or is there a little more to it than that?

When I think of pushing, I think of using all of my bodily strength to make something move. And, when compared to childbirth, it's not a totally out-there comparison. According to What to Expect, pushing is one of the final stages of your labor and delivery. Once you've reached full dilation, it's time for you to literally push your baby through the birth canal.

In lots of books, videos, and childbirth classes, you've probably heard of coached pushing. You hear a doctor counting, telling you when to push, and timing it just so with your contractions. But Fit Pregnancy noted that more and more studies are finding it's better for both mom and baby if you are allowed to push spontaneously, following your body's natural cues.

So what does pushing actually entail? It's what it sounds like — according to Baby Center, pushing means bearing down in order to move your baby through the birth canal and is considered the second stage of labor. In coached pushing, Baby Center noted that you tighten your abdominal muscles and try to exert as much downward pressure as you can, like you're having a bowel movement. A doctor or nurse will count to ten, aiming for at least three pushes during every contraction.

When you're spontaneously pushing, Fit Pregnancy noted that you are following your body's own urges. As the baby moves down the canal, their head pushes on nerves that are similar to the ones that cause you to have a bowel movement. Often, the spontaneous pushes last for five to six seconds and can occur five to six times per contraction.

An article in The Journal of Perinatal Education noted that the spontaneous pushing is considered the best way to push as it minimizes fetal stress and gives the mom adequate rest time in between pushes. You'll have to speak with your healthcare provider about the type of pushing you want to do and make sure it's incorporated into your birth plan.

Regardless of what type of pushing you do, the good thing is that once your baby's head is out, pushing the rest of their body is pretty easy. According to Parents, you may be told to push more gently after your baby has crowned in order to get the rest of their head and body out, but it usually only takes one more push to finish giving birth to your little one.

In short, pushing is exactly what it sounds like — you are pushing your baby out of your body. But depending on the type of pushing you want to do and if you want a certain position, pushing can differ from mom to mom. Just know that your body knows what it's doing and while you might need a little guidance from your doctor, nurse, or midwife, What to Expect noted that you will feel when it's time to push and will know what to do when the time comes.