Did you know there are actually times when a laboring mother would actually need to stop pushing during delivery? It’s hard to believe, but there are two instances when it’s really important to stop pushing or it can do harm.
When To Stop Pushing During Labor & Delivery
1. Not Fully Dilated
If your cervix isn’t dilated fully and a mother starts pushing, this causes problems. When the cervix isn’t to a full 10 cm, the pressure from the baby’s head is pushed into the cervix. This causes swelling and your labor can completely stall, making your cervix stop opening altogether.
Then this unfortunately leads to a c-section because this leads to stress on the baby. And of course we don’t want that. You may feel like you need to push before you’re fully dilated because of the intense pressure on your rectum.
Depending on how your baby is situated, pressure on your colon and rectum can feel like you need to push, just like a bowel movement. But your uterus actually isn’t naturally bearing down just yet. Your uterus will push all by itself when it’s time. Your desire to push like going to the bathroom is different.
2. Crowning & Tearing
The second scenario where you don’t want to push is when your baby is coming down the birthing canal and crowning. Yes, it’s find to push here, you just don’t want to push HARD and fast. If there is no other vital reason to do so, pushing too hard and fast can be harmful.
Many mothers feel the sudden pressure of the baby coming through and end up pushing too hard and fast, even between natural contractions. This causes your tissues to rip and tear. Your perineal tissue on the exterior of your vagina has to slowly stretch. If you push too hard and too fast, this almost guarantees you’ll tear.
Related: Is Episiotomy Worse Than Tearing?
Of course, there are many factors that go into tearing your perineum. But this reason is not really talked about anymore at all. You’ll find that more traditional midwives will instruct their delivering mothers to slow down and make tiny pushes during crowning and the ring of fire to help the mother not tear.
But it’s never mentioned in hospitals or other western settings where having a tear is not considered an issue because they can stitch it up. They are forgetting the myriad of issues afterwards that a tear can cause. So this is the second reason why you would likely want to stop pushing, or at the very least, slow down and make tiny efforts.
Your Diaphragm Muscle
So how do you do this? There is a muscle that sits below your rib cage that helps to operate your diaphragm. It runs parallel to your shoulders from one side to another.
When this muscle is flexed, your belly cannot expand when you breath in. You get that shoulder rising kind of deep breath. When this muscle is relaxed, your belly can fill outward when you take a deep breath. This deep relaxed type of breathing is the kind you want for delivery and bearing down.
However, when you halt this diaphragm muscle so that it cannot press downward as your lungs expand, this stops your ability to bear down and push. This doesn’t affect your uterus pushing all by itself, but it stops your additional pushing.
The Trick To Stop Your Pushing
The easiest way to freeze this muscle is by exhaling with a blowing motion. Pretend that you’re blowing out a candle, you have pursed lips, small opening to focus your air, and you blow outward. You’re not panting or breathing your nose, you’re simply blowing out the candle.
When you blow your air out this way, it actually raises your diaphragm muscle upward, expelling your air out of your lungs. This way you cannot bear down and push yourself, like when you’re having a bowel movement … or giving birth.
I demonstrate how to blow out the candle in this video, so you can take a look. It’s really quite simple.
So I want you to try this while you’re going to bathroom. Yes, gross, when you’re having a bowel movement. But you will be able to see what I mean with how your muscles and bearing down motion is affected.
When To Practice Not Pushing
When you get in the moment of labor and delivery, you may never even have to worry about possible stopping your pushing. Your care provider will let you know how far you’ve dilated and when the right time is for pushing so you won’t have to keep track.
But it may be very helpful to have them and your birthing partner know that you’d like to be careful about pushing during crowning. They can help remind you to push very slow, or stop completely if needed to help reduce the likelihood of tearing.
Then again, in the moment, it may not matter. Or it absolutely can matter a lot. There’s not way to know until you get there. But being wise to this idea can really help. Practice blowing out the candle a few times when you’re having a bowel movement, and just educate your birthing team and your reasons why you’d like to have them aware of it.
Have you ever had to stop pushing during a labor and delivery? I wish that I had learned how to really slow down during crowning or I may not have torn so bad each time. Happy birthing!