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The most exciting part of labour, the second stage starts once your cervix is fully dilated (10cm) and you start to feel an intense urge to push - and ends with the birth of your baby.
It can take anything from a few minutes to several hours. Your position, your baby's position, whether you've had any pain relief and whether this is your first vaginal birth all have a bearing on how quickly you two will get to meet for the first time.
Until now, you've had limited control over your labour, but now you can play an active part and help push your baby out through the birth canal.
Typically, contractions slow down to a couple of minutes apart: the trick is to push at regular intervals - usually three pushes per contraction - but do what feels natural and, if you need help, get your midwife to guide you.
It may feel as though you're getting nowhere - with each contraction your baby goes a little bit further down the birth canal, only to slip back a bit before the next one. Two steps forward, one step back.
Once the top of your baby's head reaches the opening of your vagina - known as crowning - you'll (unsurprisingly) feel a strong stinging sensation.
It's important to listen to your midwife's instructions now as your vagina needs time to stretch; she'll advise on when or when not to push and how hard to do so, to try to minimise the chance of you tearing.
If your midwife thinks you may tear particularly badly - or if your baby is in distress and needs to be born quickly - she may suggest you have an episiotomy at this point. This is a deliberate surgical cut between the vagina and anus, done under local anaesthetic to help avoid a serious, uncontrolled tear that might extend into the rectum or anal passage.
Once your baby has crowned, a few more contractions are usually all that are needed before the head is fully out. The shoulders and head then turn sideways and with a few more pushes and some guidance from your midwife, hey presto, out he or she pops!
The umbilical cord will usually be clamped and cut now (by the midwife or your partner, if they fancy it) and, providing all's well, you'll finally get your first cuddle.
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