5.1.1  What happens during second stage of labour?

During second stage, when the baby is high in the vagina, you can see the mother’s genitals bulge during contractions. Her anus may open a little. Between contractions, her genitals relax (Figure 5.1).

Genitals relax between contractions.
Figure 5.1  Genitals relax between contractions.

Each contraction (and each push from the mother) moves the baby further down. Between contractions, the mother’s uterus relaxes and pulls the baby back up a little (but not as far as it was before the contraction).

After a while, you can see a little of the baby’s head coming down the vagina during contractions. The baby moves like an ocean tide: in and out, in and out, but each time closer to birth (Figures 5.2a–d).

Figure 5.3  The fetal head stretches the vaginal opening to the size of the palm of your hand.

When the baby’s head stretches the vaginal opening to about the size of the palm of your hand (Figure 5.3), the head will stay at the opening - even between contractions. This is called crowning. Once the head is born, the rest of the body usually slips out easily with one or two pushes.

5.1  Recognising the signs of second stage labour

5.1.2  How does the baby move through the birth canal?