5 Pushing Myths Debunked

5 Pushing Myths Debunked

Pushing out a baby is hard work and it comes on the heels of the hard work of labor. Labor contractions work to open, or dilate, the cervix to 10 centimeters. Once the cervix is completely gone, it’s time to push so the baby’s head descends through the vagina to crown, and then the baby is born.

Simple and straightforward, right? Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Here are 5 pushing myths, busted just for you!

Myth #1: You can’t push until you are 10 centimeters dilated.

Truth is that you can. Sometimes women feel an urge to push and the cervix may be 8 or 9 or not quite 10 centimeters. The cervix can be very stretchy and move out of the way with pushing. If you feel like pushing and your cervix is not completely dilated, try a push or two and see if it helps to move the cervix out of the way.

Myth #2: You must start pushing as soon as you are 10 centimeters dilated.

Truth is that sometimes the cervix is completely dilated, but you might not have an urge to push. This happens often with women who have epidurals. You can continue to rest and allow your body to move the baby down through the vagina without pushing. As long as you are comfortable, wait until the baby’s head is low enough to cause pressure. It’ll save you a lot of pushing!

Myth #3: Women need a cut, or episiotomy, to make enough room for the baby’s head.

Truth is that the vast majority of women having the vast majority of babies do not need to be cut at all.  Cuts are almost always worse than tears, and your midwife or doctor can work with you to avoid tearing.

Myth #4: You should try to not poop while pushing.

Truth is that your body usually rids itself of stool during the labor process prior to pushing. But if there is any stool left in your rectum,  as the baby’s head moves down through the pelvis, it will come out while you are pushing. Sometimes women try to squeeze their bottoms while relaxing their vaginas. It really doesn’t work.  Just know that you might poop when you are pushing. Your midwife or physician are used to handling this, and it is a great sign that birth is close.

Myth # 5: Your doctor or midwife should stretch your vagina and perineum while you are pushing.

Truth is that the baby’s head will do a fine job of stretching your tissues to make room for the birth. Excessive stretching and massaging down there can cause the tissue to swell and make it more likely that you will tear. It’s been my experience that the best way to avoid tearing is to apply olive oil or mineral oil as the baby’s head crowns, and provide support and encouragement for a slow birth.

Jennifer Williams
Jennifer Williams is a nurse midwife living and catching babies in New Mexico. She has been caring for birthing women for nearly two decades and is amazed that some of the first babies she helped into the world are now driving. Her personal and professional interests include all areas of pregnancy and birth, infant feeding choices, advocacy for women, birth control, helping adult survivors of abuse relearn how to parent, postpartum depression and placentas, because who doesn't like placentas?

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