how long is it ok to push during labor?

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How long is it ok to push during labor? The answer is as long as both mother and baby are healthy, it’s alright to just keep on pushing until the baby is born. Just be patient. The second stage of labor or pushing phase can take anywhere from just a couple minutes to many hours.

From what I’ve observed, most primiparas (first-time moms) take at least an hour to push out their baby. But going over one or two hours is normal and acceptable. If labor seems long and the baby isn’t descending, a change of position is usually all that is needed to bring the baby down. Positions to try besides the typical hospital position of lying on back with feet in stirrups include

  • squatting either on the floor or bed; a squatting bar can assist in this position
  • sitting up, yet leaning back on bed, chair, or partner between contractions
  • lying on side, pulling top leg back during contractions
  • walking/standing
  • hands and knees
  • on knees, but in an upright position
  • leaning over a birth ball or chair

For more information about the second stage of labor, read this comprehensive article about pushing for first-time moms at Midwifery Today.

If mom is overly exhausted or her blood pressure is rising or the baby starts showing signs of distress (the baby’s heart rate is measured with a doppler or fetal monitor), then that is the time to try to shorten the pushing stage and try to get the baby out quicker. This would include pushing a lot harder for a couple contractions, trying vacuum extraction, forceps, and eventually surgery.

Again, it doesn’t matter how long it takes for pushing as long as mom and baby continue to do alright. It’s important for the laboring woman to eat if she’s hungry, drink if she’s thirsty, and change positions if she feels like it.

This becomes a problem if staff think you might be heading for a surgical birth, they don’t want you to eat anything.