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How to Push During Labor
Updated on
September 11, 2023

How to Push During Labor

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How to Push During Labor.
How to Push During Labor

We rarely learn how to push during labor ahead of time. Most of us are only taught this important skill in the middle of childbirth itself. A nurse or doctor might give some words of wisdom when we’re in between contractions, but often, all we get is some sideline coaching during one of the most intense experiences of our lives.

There’s no reason you have to wait until labor to learn how to push. There are many ways to get familiar with the muscles you need to use for effective pushing, and a little experimentation ahead of time lets you see what approaches feel good to you. Plus, practice helps you build muscle memory, which you’ll be grateful for once it’s time for the real thing.

I worked as a doula for many years, teaching hundreds of clients how to push, and I got to see what works best. I go in-depth on pushing in LOOM’s online pregnancy and postpartum program, but everyone should have access to some pushing pointers, so I’m sharing a few of my favorite tips here.

How to Practice Pushing Before Labor

Blow up a balloon: Yes, really. When you blow up a balloon, it engages the same belly muscles that you rely on when pushing during labor. Inflate your balloon while focusing on what’s happening in your body. Notice which muscles are activated. After you’ve tried this a few times, see if you can activate those muscles without the balloon.

Imagine pushing out a tampon: Don’t listen to folks who compare pushing during labor to pooping—we’re talking about a totally different set of muscles here. Instead, picture what it’s like to push out a tampon (better yet, practice actually doing it). These are the muscles that you want to use when pushing.

Pushing Positions During Labor

Side-lying: When you’re flat on your back, it puts pressure on your tailbone, which makes pushing harder, but all that changes by just tilting your body to the side. If you place a peanut ball—an exercise ball shaped just like its name—in between your legs, it opens up your pelvis, making it that much easier to push.

Hands and knees: This is another position that helps open the pelvis, which makes pushing more effective. For a more supported version of this position, drape your upper body over a birthing ball.

Squatting: When you push in a squatted position, you get extra help from gravity. You push and gravity pulls. This way, you’re not doing all the work.

Tips for Pushing During Labor

Watch your breath: Before you push, you’ll want to take a big breath of air. Hold it for around five seconds while pushing. Then slowly release the air. Of course, take a breath whenever you need one, but know that your pushes will be more effective if you can use the force of the air in your lungs to fully bear down while pushing.

Wear a mouthguard: Your jaw and pelvis are linked by connective tissue. That’s why it’s important to keep your jaw relaxed while pushing—and a mouthguard can help. When your jaw is relaxed, you can better use your pelvic floor muscles to push your baby out.

Pretend you’re a football player: You know that funny “hut” sound that football players make? When you make that sound, it engages the best muscles for pushing. You can use this “hut” trick to get familiar with the muscles you’ll want to use, but you can also use it during labor itself.

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