May 13 is Mother’s Day and to celebrate, Giving Birth with Confidence will post throughout the month of May on “The Wonder of Mothers,” a series dedicated to sharing some of the many ways mothers’ bodies are beautifully designed to grow, birth, and nourish her baby. We’re also giving away a Lamaze stroller and infant car seat, so be sure to enter to win!
The Wonder of Mothers: Spontaneous Pushing During Birth
As a writer for Lamaze for nearly eight years now, I’ve read time and again about the point in birth when a woman’s body “just takes over” and she feels the uncontrollable urge to push out her baby. But it wasn’t until last year, during my third birth, that I truly experienced the phenomenon known as “spontaneous pushing.” After birthing two children, this was my first birth without any medicinal pain relief. When it came time for me to push (a mere 10 minutes after being admitted to my room), there was no denying the intense urge. My brain was no longer in control — my body “just took over.” At the time, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the intensity and seeming lack of control. And when you think about it, it can feel scary to lose control. What I realized after the fact, however, is that I did have control, my body was controlling and leading the way to birthing my baby. The wonder — and power — of a mother’s body is awesome.
The following is excerpted from the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice #5 and talks about the benefits of spontaneous pushing.
Types of Pushing
When you push in response to the natural urge to push, it is called “spontaneous pushing,” meaning you are doing what your body tells you to do. This natural urge comes and goes several times during each contraction. Each of these bearing-down efforts or urges usually lasts from five to seven seconds. However, when you are directed by your caregiver and those around you to hold your breath and push to a count of 10 seconds, repeating this two to three times during a contraction, you are using directed pushing.
Responding to the urge to push with short periods of holding your breath in a calm, unrushed environment has many advantages. Your baby will get more oxygen through the placenta, you will be less likely to become physically exhausted, and there is less chance of damage to the perineum and the muscles of the pelvic floor in the vagina (Albers, Sedler, Bedrick, Teaf, & Peralta, 2006; Roberts & Hanson, 2007). If you are having a very difficult time pushing the baby out, directed pushing might help. However, pushing spontaneously will usually be easiest and safest for both you and your baby.
What Research Tells Us
According to the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group, a respected international organization that defines best practices based on research, the use of any upright or side-lying position compared with lying on your back with your legs in stirrups is associated with the following results:
- shorter second (pushing) stage of labor;
- a small decrease in the use of vacuum or forceps;
- fewer episiotomies;
- less chance of experiencing severe pain;
- fewer abnormal fetal heart tracings;
- a small increase in second-degree tears (in the upright group only); and
- an increase in estimated blood loss, although there was no evidence of serious or long-term problems from the extra blood loss (Gupta, Hofmeyr, & Smyth, 2004).
Were you able to spontaneously push during your labor? Share in the comments about your experience!