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how long is it ok to push during labor? January 29, 2007

Posted by guinever in babies, birth, labor, pregnancy.

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 about 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.



1. staciie - March 30, 2009

i am 15 and 17 weeks pregnant and i am really scared i just need to no what my choices of labour and pain releif are ?
can anyone help me ?

Staciie, I’m sorry you’re scared about your pregnancy and upcoming labor and birth. You can learn all about pain relief options at a childbirth class. Usually, women who want pain relief get an epidural once active labor begins. If you get it too soon, it can drastically slow down your labor and lead to a cesarean. Trust in your body’s ability to birth your baby. I hope you have a support network–whether your mom, boyfriend, aunt–anybody who can walk with you throughout your pregnancy, take childbirth classes with you and be with you during your birth. ~blessings, Guinever

2. christie - September 5, 2008

? I have a question.or 2.
When should u go to the hospital after ur contractions hav begun?
C i was under the impression that if i waited it out at home – well the better.

(so i waited fro 11am till 12am) took baths,walked etc. but when i arrived at the hospital @1am, I was only mayb 4 cm dilated-didn’t deliver till 9:00am.(I had her natural and she was my 2nd child. first 1 took 2 hours.!…)

So is it possible that perhaps i waited 2 long 2 go to the hospital and dilation reversed??? Thanku-for ur time.

Christie, Waiting too long to go to the hospital and reverse dilation have nothing to do with eachother.

It is possible for a woman to get to the hospital too soon, and labor slows way down because she wasn’t in a good labor pattern yet to begin with.

Most women’s 2nd labors are shorter than the first, but that wasn’t the case for you. Each labor is different. The baby’s position could have been a factor in both births. As far as when to go to the hospital, that is really going to vary. It’s not a matter of watching the clock; rather, its best to gauge how you feel. ~congratulations on the birth of your baby, Guinever

3. Judy - April 4, 2007

Yep – I pushed for 5 hours too (not consistently, but on and off for that time) and baby and I were just fine. I’m so grateful that I wasn’t in a hospital where they would’ve forced me into an “assisted” delivery or a c-sec!

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