We’ve been getting a lot of questions about laboring down lately. What is it? Why is it beneficial? Can it harm the baby?
We’re going to explore what laboring down means, what happens during the laboring down period, and what the benefits are.
You’re completely dilated and effaced- there’s no cervix left! Yay, let’s push that baby out! How about no? Let’s labor down.
Being “complete” doesn’t mean much of anything. 10 centimeters isn’t a magical number, and pushing doesn’t always happen as soon as you reach that milestone. If you start pushing just because you’re fully dilated, you could be exhausting yourself with work that you just don’t need to be doing yet.
Laboring down is simply letting your body do it’s thing. Ride the contractions, let your uterus move your baby down on it’s own, give baby time to descend with just the help of your contractions. Sometimes laboring down takes a while- an hour or two. Pushing your baby out is a lot of work, and sometimes pushing takes a while. Laboring down allows for your body to do work without you actually needing to exert extra energy to push with those contractions. Normal pushing time for a first time mom could be a few hours or it could be 15 minutes. There’s no way to know and it’s best to conserve energy for when you have the overwhelming urge to actively push instead of using it all up trying to get your baby down far enough to even trigger that urge. Our body encourages us to labor down by allowing the “rest and be thankful” phase of labor to happen- once you’re fully dilated, your contractions may space out so that you can rest before needing to push your sweet little one out into the world. This is often said to be a “stall in labor”, but that’s not usually the case.
Laboring down has not been known to cause harm to the baby. Most babies experience some heart rate decelerations as they come under the pubic bone and descend. This is typically a sign that you’ll be holding your baby soon. Your birth team will make you aware if it looks like anything abnormal is happening.
So, when should you start pushing? Short answer: when you feel like it. Most women will get the overwhelming, uncontrollable urge to push and that’s usually the best time to follow your body’s lead.