Second stage: Descent and birth of your baby

The second stage of labour begins when your baby has dropped well down into your pelvis and the cervix is fully dilated. The baby can now get through the cervix and descend into your vagina to be born.


When your cervix is dilated to 10 cm, the sensations become different; you will probably feel the need to push. The contractions become a force within you, and all your energy is concentrated on pushing to help your baby be delivered. The time between contractions can allow you to recover between pushes. While you may feel the need to push before your cervix is fully dilated, your health professional can tell you when the time is right to start pushing.

If you have an epidural, the pushing sensation is lessened and may even be entirely absent at the beginning of the second stage. The pushing feeling will come later, as your baby descends with the contractions. Normally, you can wait to push until you feel the urge to do so. Your efforts will then be more effective—you’ll do a better job of pushing and won’t have to push as long.

Pushing positions

The following page shows examples of the various positions you can try during the second stage of labour. Get help from the father or the person and professionals accompanying you to find a position that is comfortable and effective for you. Feel free to change positions when you want.

Possible pushing positions

Illustrations: Maurice Gervais

Illustrations: Maurice Gervais

Essential information to rememberThe health professionals usually ask the father if he wants to cut the umbilical cord.

Photo: Jean-François Bohémier

Birth of your baby

The time when you push is an intense experience for you and those accompanying you. As your baby prepares to enter the outside world, the top of his head will appear. If he likes, the father can get into a good position to see the baby’s hair. You can also watch your baby’s progress using a mirror set up in the birthing room. After the top of the head, the baby’s face will appear. Another big push and the baby’s shoulders and rest of his body will come out.

Just after birth, your baby will announce his presence with his very first sounds. He will then be placed on your belly. The health professionals will dry your baby off and make sure he’s doing well. If needed, they will clear the secretions out of his nose and mouth.

With both of you under a warm blanket, you can cuddle your baby. At last you can marvel at his tiny face, his fists, and feet, and meet his gaze. Your baby’s instinct will be to nurse for both food and comfort. The professionals assisting with your delivery can help you start breast-feeding.