The second stage starts from when your cervix is fully dilated and lasts until your baby is born. As your cervix has been opening, your contractions have also been pushing the baby down into your pelvis and your baby’s head is usually quite low in the pelvis at this stage.
Some women will experience an overwhelming urge to push. For some women pushing is very deliberate, while others experience their bodies doing the pushing. If you’ve had an epidural, you may need to be guided by your midwife when to push.
It is important to find a comfortable position for the pushing part of the second stage, as this will help you to get the most out of your contractions and pushes. Your midwife can make suggestions to help you find a comfortable position to give birth.
The pelvic floor muscles between your vagina and bottom need to flatten and spread out for your baby to move past. This process takes time and your baby will move down during contractions and then back up again during the rest phase. This can be disheartening if it's not expected, but it is part of the normal pattern of labour, allowing your baby and you to rest between contractions.
Eventually, the baby's head gets very near to being born and can be seen just behind the vaginal opening. This is called 'crowning' and some women feel a stinging or burning sensation. This is the last part of labour just before the arrival of your baby.