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Breathing out and pushing during childbirth

Each birth is different and your experience of giving birth will be different to someone else's. Some women will 'go with' their bodies and push when they feel the urge.

If you have an epidural, you may need extra support and guidance from your midwife on pushing. This is known as 'coached pushing'.

After your cervix is dilated, you may feel the urge to push. Your midwife will guide you on when to breathe out and push.

You may be asked to work with your body at the start of a contraction. You may have had previous practice of these breathing exercises.

You may be asked to:

  1. Take a deep breath in.
  2. When you breathe out, push down into your bottom as if you were trying to do a poo.
  3. Take a breath when you need to and push again.
  4. Rest between contractions - have a drink and prepare for the next urge.

Your midwife will guide you and may suggest when to stop pushing.

Breathing and self-help techniques during labour

During a water birth

If you choose to have a water birth, there will be no coached pushing. You will go with your own urge to push.

Your midwife will constantly be looking for signs of the second stage of labour. They will use an underwater torch and mirror to look at your perineum and for signs of your baby’s head.

You will be guided when to take some deep breaths instead of ‘bearing down’. It may be difficult to stay calm at this stage of birth but it is essential to listen to your midwife.

Page last reviewed: 4 January 2023
Next review due: 4 January 2026