Normal Vaginal Delivery - FAQs

What is normal Vaginal Delivery?

Routine vaginal delivery refers to the delivery of a baby through the birth canal without surgery. Women will experience contractions which indicate the beginning of labor and the cervix begins to widen (dilate). When the uterus is fully dilated, the baby's head will begin to appear and the baby will come out of the vaginal canal.

Who are the candidates for normal vaginal delivery?

Routine vaginal delivery is for women who do not have complications such as carrying more than one child or carrying a baby that shows signs of distress.

What are the alternatives to normal vaginal delivery?

Cesarean Section (C-Section) which is delivery through an incision in the abdomen.

How do you prepare for normal vaginal delivery?

During pregnancy, you will have plenty of time to prepare for childbirth. Here is a list of things to consider prior to delivery:

  • Choosing a hospital
  • Child birth classes
  • Breast feeding classes
  • Compiling a packing list for the hospital
  • Preparing the sleeping area and having ample supplies on hand
  • Arranging for household help if possible

Arranging for where you will deliver the baby and how you will get there are very important decisions as you will not know when you will go into labor.

Childbirth decisions such as whether to deliver your baby drug-free or with the assistance of pain medications is entirely your decision. You should discuss the details of these options and more with your doctor well in advance of your delivery.

How does normal vaginal delivery take place?

Your body makes some amazing changes in the days and hours leading up to your baby's birth. A day or two before labor begins; the mucus plug that sealed off your uterus detaches from the cervix and passes through your vagina. This discharge is sometimes called "bloody show" because it is tinged with blood.

Before labor begins or in the early stages of labor, your amniotic sac may rupture and you may feel fluid trickle or gush out of your vagina. If your "bag of waters" does not break on its own, your doctor may rupture it manually. Explore your pain-relief options before you go into labor. Some women aim for a drug-free delivery and rely on various breathing techniques, massage, visualization, hypnosis, and other strategies to ease the pain of labor. Others prefer pain medication or regional anesthesia (such as an epidural, which numbs the lower half of your body). Contractions happen when your uterine muscles involuntarily tighten and relax. When true labor begins, you feel contractions at regular intervals. As labor progresses, these contractions get longer, stronger, and closer together. During active labor, you may feel intense pain or pressure in your back or abdomen during each contraction. You may also feel the urge to push or bear down, though your doctor will ask you to wait until your cervix is completely dilated.

Contractions help your cervix dilate -- or open -- so your baby can pass through the birth canal. You're fully dilated when your cervical opening measures 10 centimeters. As the cervix opens, it also thins (effaces) in preparation for delivery. When your cervix is fully dilated, your doctor gives you the OK to push. Propelled by your effort and the force of your contractions, the baby makes his way through the birth canal. The fontanels -- soft spots --on his head allow it to mold to the shape of this narrow passage. Your baby's head "crowns" when the widest part of it is at the vaginal opening. As soon as your baby's head emerges, the doctor suctions amniotic fluid, blood, and mucus from his nose and mouth. More contractions and pushing help deliver the baby's shoulders and body. The doctor clamps and cuts the umbilical cord and examines your newborn. It's not over yet: After your baby is born, more contractions help you deliver the placenta, or "afterbirth."

What is the normal vaginal delivery recovery process?

After your delivery, you will be able to hold your baby. If your baby has special needs or any medical problems, your baby may be moved to another unit or room. For vaginal delivery, your hospital stay will generally last for up to 48 hours. Your recovery from childbirth depends on your circumstances. You may experience any of the following:

  • Vaginal soreness - some women undergo an episiotomy, a surgical cut made by your doctor to enlarge the opening of the vagina. This wound or a natural vaginal tear will be sore after delivery and you may ice the area to relieve some discomfort.
  • Vaginal discharge - a discharge called lochia will occur for up to eight weeks after delivery. Sanitary pads are recommended for discharge as opposed to tampons to reduce the likelihood of infection.
  • Hemorrhoids - hemorrhoids are stretched and swollen veins around the anus that are common after childbirth. To relieve discomfort associated with hemorrhoids, you may soak in a warm bath, the affected area. You should eat a high-fiber nutritious diet as well.
  • Sore breasts - after delivery your breasts will become sore and enlarged. This is due to your breasts expressing milk for your baby.
  • Difficulty in urinating - the tissues around the urethra and bladder may be swollen after delivery and may cause you to have difficulty in urinating.
  • Contracting and releasing the pelvic muscles can help as well as applying hot or cold packs to the area.

You may return to normal activities such as exercise as soon as possible to gain strength after delivery. Depending on your body, this may be two to four weeks after delivery. Start slow and gradually increase your level of activity. Avoid strenuous activities such as running at first. You should wait about four to six weeks before having sexual intercourse to reduce the risk of infection and bleeding. Many women experience "baby blues" or post-partum blues after delivery. Women may experience mood swings, anxiety, weepiness and regret for a few days or up to two weeks after delivery. Some women may actually suffer from post-partum depression which is a more severe case of the blues and usually lasts well beyond two weeks. If you have suicidal thoughts or experience feelings of hopelessness, you should seek professional help immediately.