Feature | Woman giving birth in the hospital with her husband | Vaginal Birth: What To Expect

What To Expect During Vaginal Birth

A vaginal birth may seem scary, but the truth is, it’s something your body was built to do!

In this article:

  1. What Is Vaginal Birth?
  2. Who Are Likely to Have a Vaginal Birth?
  3. Why Is a Vaginal Birth Preferable?
  4. What Happens During a Vaginal Birth?
  5. When Should You Head to the Hospital?
  6. How Long Does It Take to Have a Vaginal Birth?
  7. How Long Does It Take for the Vagina to Heal?

Everything You Need to Know About Vaginal Birth

What Is Vaginal Birth?

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Husband holds her hand while giving birth | Vaginal Birth: What To Expect

A vaginal delivery is basically giving birth to a baby through the vagina. It’s the most natural method of birth for mammals.

This form of delivery can be done with or without the aid of pain medication or epidurals. In fact, natural childbirth, the method of giving birth without invasive medical procedures or pain medication, is becoming more popular these days.

Vaginal deliveries can be further differentiated into the following:

  • Normal vaginal delivery (NVD) – may refer to assisted or induced delivery; usually used in studies to contrast to c-section deliveries.
  • Spontaneous vaginal delivery (SVD) – when females go into labor and give birth without using medication to induce labor or other interventions (use of vacuum or forceps)
  • Induced vaginal delivery – when drugs or other techniques start the process of labor.
  • Assisted vaginal delivery (AVD) – when females go into labor but require intervention to deliver the baby (the use of a vacuum or forceps or performing an episiotomy)

Episiotomy Definition: It is a procedure done during childbirth to prevent the tearing of the perineum or to aid in the delivery process. It is a surgical incision or a cut in the tissue between the anus and vagina.

Who Are Likely to Have a Vaginal Birth?

Healthy moms who have low-risk pregnancies should be able to have a vaginal birth.

Age is also a factor. Studies show that the risk of cesarian sections increase as moms get older. Women who are 40 years old or older are twice as likely to have a cesarian section compared to women who are under 20 years old.

Why Is a Vaginal Birth Preferable?

A cesarian section or c-section is a type of major surgery for delivering babies. It is usually the method of delivery for high-risk pregnancy cases when a vaginal delivery may put the mother or baby’s health at risk.

There are cases when a c-section is necessary. Otherwise, for healthy mothers with low-risk pregnancies, vaginal births are preferable over cesarian sections because of the following reason:

  • Shorter hospital time
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Avoid the risks of major surgery such as visible scars, blood clots, infection, negative reactions to medication or anaesthesia, and longer-lasting pain
  • Reduces the risk of having another c-section for subsequent deliveries
  • Babies are less likely to be born with transient tachypnea of the neonate (TTN), a respiratory problem caused by fluid in the baby’s lungs
  • Exposure to beneficial bacteria in the birth canal may make your child less likely to develop certain food allergies and asthma
  • Moms can try breastfeeding immediately after a vaginal birth

While labor and delivery may last longer and require more effort from mom, there are many benefits gained by both the expectant mom and baby when they go through a vaginal delivery.

RELATED: Different Ways Of Giving Birth: Methods And Delivery Explained

What Happens During a Vaginal Birth?

Birthing experiences will vary from woman to woman, but they will normally go through the three stages of labor:

  • First Stage: Labor
  • Second Stage: Pushing
  • Third Stage: Delivering the placenta

The first stage of labor is often the most unpredictable and usually the longest stage of childbirth. At this stage, women begin to feel irregular, mild contractions.

The contractions help prepare the cervix for the birthing process by widening or dilating it. When the contractions begin to increase in intensity and frequency, active labor begins. That’s why women normally ask for pain medication or practice pain management techniques during active labor.

By the second stage of labor, the cervix should be 10 cm dilated and the baby should have descended to the pelvic area. All of the pushing happens during the second stage of labor. And the pushing is worth it because at the end of this stage, the baby is born.

While it seems like it should end there, there’s still one more thing the new mom has to do — deliver the placenta. The third stage is when the new mom has to make one final push for the placenta. But don’t worry, at this point, the new mom is a pro at pushing and it’s nowhere near as tedious as pushing out a baby.

When Should You Head to the Hospital?

Pregnant woman starting labor sitting on the coach | Vaginal Birth: What To Expect

It’s good to keep your doctor, midwife, or healthcare provider updated throughout your labor. But usually, women wait until they’re in active labor before heading to the hospital. Early labor can last for a really long time, and it may be better to spend that time resting in the comfort of your own homes.

Specifically, women are advised to check into their healthcare facilities or be in their chosen birthing space when contractions are 5 minutes apart and last for 60-90 seconds each time.

How Long Does It Take to Have a Vaginal Birth?

The length of labor and delivery will vary from woman to woman. It’s also difficult to pinpoint when labor actually begins for most women, so it can be hard to tell how long the entire process actually took.

In fact, some women can comfortably experience early labor for days before they move on to active labor. Active labor can last between 4-10 hours and delivery can last for a few minutes to a few hours.

Labor and delivery usually take longer for first-time moms or for those who opt for an epidural. The process tends to go quicker for moms who have already had vaginal births.

How Long Does It Take for the Vagina to Heal?

The first six weeks after giving birth is generally considered a recovery period for the new mom. And this includes the time your vagina needs to recover from childbirth.

If there was no tearing, it can take 3 to 5 weeks for the vagina to heal. If there was a perineal tear or an episiotomy, then it may take up to six weeks to completely heal.

Learn more about vaginal birth in this video from 7activestudio:

YouTube video

A great way to prepare for the arrival of your baby is to create a birth plan with your partner. A birth plan is a document you prepare in advance that lists your birthing preferences and methods you would like to avoid.

In your birth plan, you can specify if you prefer a natural birth or if you would like the aid of pain medication. Be sure to share this birth plan with your doctor, midwife, or healthcare practitioner a few weeks before your due date so that everyone’s on the same page.

What have you been doing to prepare for the arrival of your little one? Let us know in the comments section.

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