What happens during the second stage of labor

What happens during the second stage of labor

The second stage is the work of pushing your baby through your vagina.

Procedures during vaginal birth

Your health care provider may suggest one or more procedures to help with the birth of your baby. Learn more about procedures used during labor.


An incision (cut) may be made to enlarge the vaginal opening. It can be made straight toward the rectum or off to one side. A local anesthetic or block is used to numb the area. Talk with your health care provider about why an episiotomy might be done. If you prefer not to have one, ask what might be done to prevent one.

Vacuum extractor

A vacuum extractor may be used to help move your baby through the birth canal. It is used if your baby needs to be born faster or if your pushing efforts need extra help. A small plastic suction cup is placed on your baby's head. As you push, your baby is guided out of your vagina. Your baby's head may have some swelling or bruising where the cup was placed.


Your health care provider may use forceps rather than a vacuum extractor to help your baby's head be born. Forceps look like two large metal spoons. These are put on each side of your baby's head to help guide your baby out of the birth canal. There may be some bruising on your baby's face and head from the forceps.

Related resources

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, eighth edition, ob-ah-90026
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/06/2021