Vaginal Birth: The “Original” Way to Birth


Should I have a baby by vaginal birth?

A woman’s body was built to give birth. Most women are successful giving birth naturally. Usually it’s the safest way to give birth, because you avoid the risks and complications coming from major surgery (C-Section).

Just as your body knows what to do with food without you having to think about it, a vaginal birth is the exact same. Your body knows exactly what to do because that’s the way it was designed: to labor & then deliver your baby (your mental game is super important, but your body still knows exactly what to do). 

As contractions increase in intensity and frequency, your cervix continues opening (which is called dilating- learn other pregnancy, labor & birth terms here) allowing baby to move through the birth canal & out through your vagina. Usually, baby’s face is facing towards your back (or towards the floor).

As baby travels through the birth canal they rotate naturally (helps them squeeze their head, shoulders, etc. through). Crowning (a.k.a “the ring of fire”…like Johnny Cash’s song :) ) is when their head reaches the entryway of your vagina. You can reach down and touch their head at this point (if you want). This sensation of crowning will feel like a burning sensation for a few seconds. The head pops out followed by the shoulders and the rest of their sweet body. Through this entire process they’re still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord.

There are 2 kinds of vaginal birth: Medicated & Unmedicated. Medicated means you have pain medications & unmedicated means you don’t.

What’s challenging about a Medicated Vaginal birth?

  • Even if you’re planning a medicated birth, there’ll be some pain involved. 
  • Waiting for the anesthesiologist to arrive (if you opt for the epidural anesthesia)- sometimes they may be unavailable when you want relief “now.” 
  • There may be side effects or reactions to the drugs which might make you uncomfortable (make sure you check your family history & notify your provider BEFORE labor :)
  • Effective pushing. Depending on the drugs you choose (narcotics vs. epidural), the dosage, and your body’s response to them, you may or may not be able to feel the lower part of your body when it comes time to push baby out. Depending on a nurse to tell you when to push can make things difficult and you may have more tearing as a result. 
  • Limited mobility. This can be trying especially if baby isn’t in the optimal position for delivery. After baby is delivered, you may not be able to walk around, sit on the toilet, take a shower, etc., for several hours. 

What’s challenging about an Unmedicated Vaginal birth 

  • Staying focused and minimizing distractions.
  • Managing pain- Finding what works for you can change on a minute by minute basis. Using techniques such as visualization, massage, counter-pressure, water therapy, goal setting & positive self-talk are important during unmedicated childbirth to manage pain. {Learn how to have less pain here}
  • Fatigue. Particularly during an extended labor, it’s easy to get tired. Some mamas are able to eat & drink, rest or even sleep during contractions, while others aren’t (that will depend on where you give birth). 
  • Temptation to want drugs. Because unmedicated childbirth is so challenging, is also the reason it’s so rewarding! Having birth support who knows what you want & is committed to helping you achieve your unmedicated birth (if that’s really what you want) is invaluable. Especially when you hit the wall and want drugs, NOW! 

The World Health Organization states:“In normal birth there should be a valid reason to interfere with the natural process.” click to tweet

What is amazing about vaginal birth?

  • Can be incredibly empowering.
  • Bonding with baby- more hormones are released during vaginal birth. 
  • Team work with baby. 
  • You’ll see a part of yourself, you’ve never seen before. 
  • How strong you are- it can carry over throughout the rest of your life. (we interviewed Cindy Crawford & she talks about how she felt ‘stronger when she was pregnant’…so cool!) 

Benefits of Vaginal Birth

  • No complications or risks of major surgery 
  • Less risk of injury and infection 
  • Less blood loss 
  • A faster, less painful recovery 
  • Less risk of breathing difficulties for your baby 
  • A shorter hospital stay (few hours up to few days) 
  • Less risk for future pregnancies 

**The use of drugs in vaginal birth carries their own risks/benefits. Check out our Pregnancy Definitions Guide to read about some of the risks involved with using medications during childbirth.

Risks of Vaginal Birth

  • Stitches in vagina and perineum (from tearing between anus and vagina) 
  • Short-term incontinence (when you sneeze & pee, or laugh & pee, etc.), often fixes itself quickly with kegel exercises. 
  • Short-term sexual challenges after the birth of your baby, such as painful intercourse or decreased desire for sex. It’s actually common following most types of birth (mamas report more challenges from c-sections because the uterus & abdominal areas need to heal).

 If you want to deliver vaginally…

The more your labor is allowed to progress naturally, the more likely you’ll give birth vaginally. There are different factors affecting this: your environment, birth support & fewer physical restrictions on you & less interventions.

Increase your chance of having a vaginal birth by:

  1. Have birth support (family, coach, doula)- proven to help. Evidence here.
  2. Wait to go to the hospital until your contractions are regular & have an established pattern (or you are 4 to 5 cm dilated). 
  3. Eat & drink to give you energy (evidence supports eating & drinking) 
  4. During Labor- Have ability to stand, sit, squat, sit on birthing ball, be in shower, be in water for water birth or whatever position feels best to you. 
  5. Minimal to no interventions (continuous electric fetal monitoring, induction, medications) 
  6. If you opt for epidural, wait as long as possible to get it, so that you can have ability to stand, sit, squat, sit on birthing ball, be in shower, be in water for water birth, since moving around helps keep labor moving and gets baby into optimal birth position. 

And don’t forget. You Can Do It!

“Believe with all of your heart that you will do what you were made to do.” -Orison Swett Marden

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