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Breathing for pushing

  • You don't need to practice pushing before you go into labor. However, it is helpful to know what will make pushing most effective.

    Your uterus does most of the work when it comes time to push. You can add to that effort by pushing during each contraction.

    If you can feel your contractions, you can work with them. Bear down when you feel the urge. If pain medicine or fatigue make it hard to work with your contractions, your nurse or health care provider will tell you when to push.

    The best way to push is to take in a breath and use it to bear down for five to six seconds. Then gently release the breath and take another. Holding your breath for long periods of time makes it hard for you and your baby to get enough oxygen. That is not good for your baby and makes your pushing less effective.

    It's fine to grunt and make noise when you push. Keep your jaw relaxed and your sounds deep. High-pitched sounds can mean you are straining and not bearing down.

    When you are pushing, tighten your abdominal muscles and relax your pelvic floor (the opposite of a Kegel). You can check your ability to tighten some muscles while relaxing others. Sit on the toilet and start to urinate. Then make yourself urinate faster. Those are the same muscles you will use to birth your baby.

    When it is time for your baby's head to be born, you may be encouraged to stop pushing or do quick shallow breaths. This allows for your tissues to stretch and allows your baby's head to ease out. Your health care team will help guide you through this stage.

    Learn more about pushing positions.