What happens at the moment of giving birth naturally? At the moment when the baby is pushed out of the pelvis, there are an infinite number of things happening in the body. Here is an explanation of some of them. Remember to ask tons of questions, and relax as much as you can.

  • Contractions push the baby down the vagina and under the pubic bone. The movement of the baby is similar to putting your foot in a boot, “down and around”
  • The uterus supplies 80% of the effort
  • Three contractions come in ten minutes with each contraction lasting 60-70 seconds
  • The perineum stretches as the baby is coming to the vaginal opening and the sensations you feel tell that you are going to give birth in the next several contractions
  • This ends with the birth of your baby!!

Physically, you may feel some or all of these while giving birth

  • A “rest and be thankful” phase at the beginning of pushing, a break to re-group.
  • The urge to push may be sporadic at the beginning but quite soon the urge to push becomes clear and you may feel the need to push 3 to 5 times during a contraction. During most of these efforts you may release air with some short breath holding.
  • A need to arch your back and more your lower spine forward while thrusting your pelvis forward
  • Rectal pressure increasing as your baby descends. It is normal to pass a small amount of stool as you begin to push
  • Very hot and flushed
  • A burning and stretching feeling of the tissues around the vaginal opening when the baby’s head is crowning. These tissues then go numb as they continue to stretch around your baby’s head.
  • Great relief once the baby’s head is born

Emotionally, you may feel some or all of these while giving birth

  • Energized
  • More aware of your surroundings
  • Very tired

What you can do to help yourself while giving birth

  • Think of opening and relaxing the lower abdominal muscles
  • Push when you have an urge to push
  • Give yourself time to learn to push
  • Think of pushing “through” the pain
  • Change positions every 30-40 minutes (choose gravity enhanced position as well as positions that open the pelvic outlet such as squatting)
  • Learn to push while sitting on the toilet
  • Look down towards your baby
  • Touch your baby’s head to learn how you push
  • Look in a mirror
  • Drink sips of fluid
  • Listen to energizing music
  • Put warm socks on your feet
  • Ask the care provider to put warm compresses on the vaginal opening to help direct your pushing effort

How the labour partner can help with birth

  • Support her legs
  • Get something for her to drink
  • Help her to change positions
  • Help her to relax in between contractions with firm massage (back, hands, feet, head and shoulders)
  • Remind her to push “through the pain” and to think of opening
  • Remind her to go to the bathroom ever 1-2 hours. Encourage her to sit on the toilet to learn to push
  • Put warm socks on her feet
  • Play energizing music
  • Put cold compresses on her neck and face
  • Remind her how close she is to the end

Prepared by: Childbirth Education Curriculum Project Ad Hoc Committee
Approved by: BC Women’s Family Education Advisory Committee