Figuring things out during your pregnancy is a challenging task on its own … Balancing your diet, finding ways to stay active, and dealing with discomforts. While these are all real challenges you’re trying to navigate, you’ll get to the point when you have to start thinking about the actual delivery process.
Don’t forget that after about 40 weeks of carrying a baby inside your belly, you still have to actually give birth - which may be something you’ve been anticipating. This is an exciting time in motherhood and marks the beginning of the journey you’ll share with your child.
Labor and delivery is a different experience for every mother, and there are many different methods of giving birth.
While it may not be what you had planned, you can better your birthing experience by learning about all your different delivery options and understanding what will happen when you do go into active labor.
One type of delivery, perhaps the most common and safest type for you and your baby, is vaginal birth. There are two ways for you to go through a vaginal birth - an unassisted vaginal delivery (known as “natural childbirth”) and assisted vaginal delivery.
Unassisted vaginal delivery is when you don’t get any medications for pain or to speed up the labor process. With the absence of medication, some mothers will still opt to have other medical help like a monitor for the baby’s heart.
Assisted vaginal delivery is when labor is performed with the help of forceps or a vacuum device. Another common type of assisted vaginal delivery is when your doctor starts your contractions before labor begins on its own, called labor induction.
Vacuum-assisted Vaginal Birth
A vacuum-assisted vaginal birth is when your doctor uses a vacuum extractor, which is a soft cup placed on your baby’s head, to help guide your baby out as you push. This is normally used during the second stage of your birth (the pushing stage) when your baby is low in your pelvis.
This method is associated with lower risk of injury and infection, a shorter hospital stay, less blood loss, and no surgical complications. However, common risks would include short-term marking or bruising to your baby’s head, jaundice, vaginal tearing, and temporary problems with your bladder.
Forceps-assisted Vaginal Birth
Forceps are tong-like instruments placed inside your vagina to gently pull your baby out as you push. Though it may sound unfamiliar, forceps are safe when used by experienced and specially trained health care providers and can help you avoid having a C-section.
Compared to a C-section, forceps-assisted vaginal birth is associated with lower risk of injury and infection, a shorter hospital stay, less painful recovery, less blood loss, and no surgical complications.
A vaginal birth isn’t the best option for everyone. Sometimes, your doctor will determine that the best course of action for your delivery is a Cesarean section (also known as “C-section”). During this surgical delivery, the doctor will deliver the baby using incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus.
Doctors may resort to a C-section for many reasons, all centered around the safety of you and your baby. Some factors would include:
- If you have existing medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
- If your baby is in a breech or transverse position rather than being head-down
- If your baby is too big to pass through your pelvis
- If your labor isn’t progressing
Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC)
If you have already given birth to a baby by C-section, you may be thinking about a vaginal birth for your next baby. This is what’s called a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). For many women, this is very possible!
A common reason for choosing to have a vaginal birth after already having a C-section in the past is because of the avoided risks of going through multiple C-sections, such as placenta previa or placenta accreta.
With VBAC, you also face a lower risk of surgical complications such as excessive bleeding, infection and blood clotting in your veins. You’ll also have a shorter recovery time after a VBAC compared to a repeat C-section. Avoiding a surgical delivery will help you return to your normal activities much sooner.
Is It Right For You?
Although VBAC is very possible for many women, it isn’t right for everyone. You might be a candidate for VBAC if you’re pregnant with one baby and have a history of one or two low transverse C-sections, or one C-section with an unknown type of uterine incision - and of course, if your current health conditions permit.
Many doctors wouldn’t recommend a VBAC if you've had more than two C-sections prior to your current pregnancy, if you have a body mass index of 50 or higher at the time of your delivery, or finally, if you’ve never had a vaginal delivery.
Keep in mind that VBAC’s are also not an option if you’re pregnant with triplets or higher order multiples.