An Overview of Vaginal Deliveries:
What Expectant Mothers Can Expect

Should I have a vaginal delivery for my baby?

The majority of women give birth through vaginal delivery. Approximately 70 percent of hospital infant deliveries are standard births, but an experienced staff is always prepared to perform an emergency procedure if there is a problem with the infant or the mother.

When you are pregnant, it is helpful to create a birthing plan to describe what your ideal delivery process looks like, and also prepare for any emergencies. If you choose to give birth at home, then a plan should be in place to transport you to a medical facility if you or the baby is in distress.

Most importantly, be sure to talk to your OB/GYN about which approach might work best for you ahead of time. If you have questions about vaginal deliveries or other concerns related to pregnancy and birth, feel free to contact the compassionate and friendly North Florida obstetricians at All About Women.

Different types of vaginal deliveries

There are several types of vaginal delivery methods that expectant mothers should be aware of.

Spontaneous vaginal delivery

For a spontaneous natural delivery, the birth of the infant occurs without the need to pull the infant from the birth canal or perform an episiotomy (a small cut at the opening of the vagina). This type of delivery isn’t induced with medications, but it is often assisted with the care of a midwife or a physician.

Some women have very little pain during labor, while other women have long and painful deliveries. Each pregnancy varies from woman to woman, which is why a birthing plan makes it possible to prepare for any changes in the process.

Natural labor and delivery

In natural birth, a woman doesn’t receive any pain-relieving or numbing medications. Instead, she controls her discomfort during labor and delivery with physical activity, meditation or focused breathing.

Occasionally, women will choose to use hydrotherapy (relaxing in warm water to reduce their pain) during the labor and delivery process. Other women decide to use a birthing stool so that they can sit while giving birth and use gravity to help the infant to slide from the birth canal.

Vaginal delivery with medication

Studies reveal that over 70 percent of the women who have a vaginal delivery will request an epidural. This local anesthesia technique involves injecting pain relieving medication into the lower part of the spinal cord. With this anesthesia, a woman can continue with their preferred delivery process while she is monitored closely by the registered nurses and physicians.

If a baby is especially large or the mother is small, then the use of forceps or a vacuuming suctioning device can be used during an assisted delivery.

Stages of the vaginal birthing process

There are various stages of labor and delivery during the vaginal birthing process.

Stage 1: Early labor

During this early phase, the woman’s cervix thins and begins to dilate so that the infant can pass through the birth canal. This is when there are painful contractions (labor pains) in the body to open the cervix enough so that the infant can have an assisted or natural birth.

Stage 2: Baby is born

During stage two, the infant passes through the birth canal with or without assistance from a midwife or physician. The infant and the mother are monitored closely to determine if there are any complications that will require fast medical intervention.

Stage 3: Expelling the afterbirth

Within a half-hour after the infant is born, the afterbirth will expel naturally. The physician or the midwife will examine the afterbirth and the woman's uterus to determine if any remnants are left inside.

Stage 4: Recovering from delivery

After a vaginal delivery, a woman may feel exhausted and dehydrated. Some women develop intense shaking after giving birth and they may require intravenous fluids to overcome dehydration. During this time, the woman will have bleeding from the uterus that is similar to menstruation. This is normal. However, if there is too much blood, then this can indicate that there is a complication.

The new mother should sleep as much as possible, but she may also need to begin breastfeeding. The process of breastfeeding can be difficult, depending on the infant’s ability to suckle and other issues.

The initial recovery from childbirth requires 6-8 weeks. A newborn requires frequent feedings and care, and the mother will be tired and still recovering from her delivery. There will be an adjustment period.

The full recovery for vaginal birth can require several months due to exhaustion and the changes in the mother’s hormone levels.

Have questions? Consult an experienced Gainesville OB/GYN

Of course, not all women choose vaginal delivery — and for some women a vaginal delivery might be dangerous or impossible. In such cases, a cesarean section delivery may be required.

It’s important to talk to your OB/GYN about which approach might work best for you ahead of time. Don't hesitate to contact our team of compassionate midwives, physicians and nurses if you have questions about vaginal deliveries or other concerns related to pregnancy and birth.