Stages and Phases of Labor: Stage 2
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Stages and Phases of Labor: Stage 2

calendarJuly 26, 2016

Breathing while in labor

Labor is the process during which the fetus and the placenta leave the uterus. There are three stages of labor which are known as early, active and transitional labor. In this article you will find a detailed description of the second stage of birth. The contractions during labor are the mechanisms of your body to open your cervix and move the baby into a suitable position to exit. They might be very exhausting and painful but you need them for the normal delivery of the baby.

First Stage of Labor

Early labor is the first and often the longest phase of labor. It might even last 2 to 3 days. The contractions in this phase are mild to moderate and you will be able to talk while you are having them. Each one lasts about 30 to 45 seconds. These contractions are often irregular. During this stage the cervix will dilate to about 3 cm. Early labor usually takes a lot of time for the first-time mothers who could have many hours of early labor without significant opening of the cervix. Many future moms go the hospital during early labor which is not necessary at all. They are usually being sent home again until the active labor phase starts.

Stage 2: Active Labor

After the cervix has dilated to 3-4 cm, then the active phase of labor starts. Active labor ends when the cervix is fully effaced and dilated and the time to push comes. This is the right moment to go to the hospital. The contractions during this stage have much more significant intensity and frequency. They will appear every 2 to 3 minutes and will last longer – between 50 and 70 seconds. This is the phase of labor in which your amniotic sac/water will break.

What to Expect During Active Labor?

Because of the stronger contractions in this phase, you should be prepared for this:

  • difficult standing up;
  • feeling restless and uneasy;
  • feeling the need to change positions often. This improves your circulation and will probably help you feel better;
  • having pains;
  • being dehydrated.

Transition Labor

During the third stage of labor, the placenta is delivered. The contractions will not stop before that. They will make the placenta separate from the inside of the uterus and exit your body.

Pushing During Active Labor

The active labor will probably last between 20 minutes and 2 hours. Contractions will be about 45-90 second long. The intervals between them will be about 3-5 minutes. Pushing the baby will come naturally because you will feel a strong urge to push.

How to Push the Baby out?

Here are some tips for easy delivery of baby and how to push:

  • Take a comfortable position which uses gravity to your advantage.
  • The moment to push is when you feel the urge. Push with all of your energy.
  • Relax your pelvic floor and the anal area. They should not be stiff. Kegel exercises are very useful when you train relaxing these exercises. So, make these exercises often during your pregnancy.
  • Use the intervals between contractions to have rest. This will help you regain your energy and strength.

What Happens with Your Baby During Active Labor?

Baby delivery

While you are in labor, your baby will also meet great challenges as it prepares to enter this world. Its head will turn to one side. Thus, the chin will now rest on the chest. The back of the head will lead the way of the baby to the new world. Then, the head will begin to emerge through the vaginal opening. This is called crowning and it does not mean that the baby will go out immediately.

This might take time. When the head is finally out, the shoulders will turn to face your side. This allows the baby to slip out easily. The adequate medical interference is very important as the baby might take a wrong position which will not let it exit. The reaction of the doctor might prevent serious problems just like in the cases of preterm labor.

Breathing While in Labor

This is how the proper breathing techniques will help you during delivering of a baby: the rhythmic breathing maximizes the amount of oxygen which will be available for you and the baby. This is also the way to handle contractions and feel better.

Breathing is also one of the relaxation techniques linked to a reduced risk of assisted birth.

The Danger of Non-rhythmic Breathing

If you fail to relax and you are tense and frightened, then your breathing will be shallow and rapid. This poor breathing will significantly decrease the amount of oxygen which your body will be able to use for yourself and the baby. This is a normal condition when you are stressed but your body cannot function properly in this state. Be aware that giving birth is a dynamic process and even if in a certain moment something does not seem normal with the baby, you should try not to worry. Everything might go back to normal in a few minutes, but if you allow yourself to get stressed, this might have a significant negative effect on the baby.

Breathing Exercises During Childbirth Classes

One of the important things which you will learn when attending such classes is how to control your breathing. It is important to go to these classes with your partner. Thus, this person will know how to assist you during labor. Sometimes, it is totally enough to have someone you trust around you to tell you to relax and breathe.

Exercise Proper Breathing Techniques at Home

Before the time of baby delivery comes, be sure to exercise your breathing at home regularly.

Here is what you should do:

  • First, close your eyes. This will help you avoid distractions. Focus your attention on breathing and be sure that it is rhythmic. Breathe in and after a slight pause, breathe out. Then make another little pause before you breathe in again. Be sure that your breathe-ins are the same in length and depth as your breathe-outs.
  • During the very strong contractions, the breathing becomes shallow. Do not worry too much about this but pay attention if your breathing starts to get faster and faster and turns into panic breathing. You should avoid this because otherwise you will soon feel out of oxygen.

Breathing Techniques

You should make breathing exercises during pregnancy in order to be prepared what to do during labor. While breathing out, try to relax and release the tension in your body. Focus on the relaxing of your muscles. A good option to control your breathing is to count. While you breathe in, count slowly up to three or four, for example.

Then, as you breathe out, count to the same number. If it makes you feel more comfortable, count to three when you breathe in and then to four when you breathe out. You should breathe in through your nose and then out through your mouth.

What Is the Role of Breathing During Labour?

It is very important to control your breathing and to know how to breathe during active labor. The number of pushes during each contraction should be the one that you feel proper. You should not hold your breath and push for as long as you can. This may damage your pelvic floor and may have a negative impact on the baby.

When pushing for longer than five to six seconds, this may affect how much oxygen gets through to your baby and cause it distress. Just push down into your bottom and count to five. Then take a few deep breaths to ensure enough oxygen for your body and the baby and push again.

When Should I Push?

Some pregnant women feel the urge to push before the cervix is fully dilated. The medical specialist who monitors your delivery and the childbirth pushing will tell you whether to push. Sometimes your cervix just needs more time to open, no matter that you have the urge to push.

It is a good idea to change your position. You might try kneeling on all fours with your bottom in the air. Let your cheek rest on the ground. During a contraction, give four short pants, then a quick in-breath and four more short pants. Remember not to push and breathe normally between contractions.


At the end you will probably be totally exhausted and still without an answer to the question how to deliver a baby. Even if you have normal delivery time, it is totally common to be out of energy, after all, the birth pushing. After the delivery, you can expect your baby to be coated with a white substance and to have a cone-shaped head, enlarged genitals and puffy eyes. The doctor will tell you whether everything seems normal. Then you should have a rest before the time for breastfeeding comes. Be sure to relax well after the pretty exhausting second and third stage of labor.

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