Your uterus is a powerful muscle and will actually push your baby out without conscious or forced effort from you–at some point following complete dilation your body will begin involuntarily pushing the baby out. Many women experience the unmistakable urge to push as an “uncontrollable urge”–but, in order to feel that uncontrollable urge, you often have to wait a little while! Though some care providers and nurses encourage you to begin pushing as soon as you are fully dilated there is often a natural lull in labor before your body’s own pushing urge begins. Some people refer to this lull as the “rest and be thankful” stage. It gives your body a chance to relax and prepare to do a different type of work (in labor the muscles of your uterus are working to draw your cervix up and open. During pushing, the muscles of your uterus change functions and begin to push down instead of pull up). If you wait to push until you really need to, you will often find that your pushing stage is shorter and progresses more smoothly that pushing before you feel the urge.
I’m reviewing a copy of the wonderful new pregnancy book from Our Bodies, Ourselves and they shared the following about this issue:
“Research suggests that the length of time before the baby is born is the same if you allow one hour of ‘passive descent’ of the baby (when you relax and don’t consciously try to push) or you start pushing immediately after you are fully dilated.”