The Goal Isn't to Get to 10 cm, it's to Have a Baby


We tend to place a lot of focus on dilation during labour and reaching that milestone of 10 cm (full dilation), however, it can be easy to forget that the biggest goal is to finally have that baby!


In order for your baby to be born, your cervix must efface and dilate, yes, but your baby also plays a role in their birth. In order to navigate through the pelvis, the baby makes 7 movements called cardinal movements. They are:


1) Engage

2) Decent

3) Flexion (chin tucked)

4) Internal Rotation

5) Extention (chin up)

6) External Rotation

7) Expulsion (often with baby pressing their feet against the top of the uterus!)


The cervix usually dilates from back to front so there is often a "lip" of cervix in the front that lingers as the baby attempts to engage. Birthing people often feel quite a bit of pressure in the bum and may be tempted to push with the urge because they want labour to be done! Care providers will sometimes offer to press on the lip while the birther pushes. However, studies have shown that Valsalva pushing (holding your breath to push) as soon as the cervix is fully dilated can actually slow the pushing stage considerably. This is because your baby may not have reached the next step in cardinal movements and you are pushing your baby's head through the pelvis before it has rotated to fit easily. Essentially you are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole!


As your baby moves out of the lower uterine segment and deeper into your pelvis, the uterus shortens and thickens at the top (fundus) to help build power. It's common for contractions to slow while all of this happens, so keep trusting, and relish in the break! You will find that at some point you just can't NOT push because you'll have an intense feeling of expulsion!

When your are labouring and feel that pressure and your care provider suggests to push, wait for your baby to make their movements and keep going with your comfort measures to conserve energy. And go sit on the toilet for help from gravity, but to also get that bladder out of the way so your baby has lots of room to come through. 😉 ⁠your pushing stage will be shorter if you do!

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Email Pamela Tessmann