Vaginal Birth Basics
What to expect when baby is finally ready to be born.
Most babies are delivered vaginally, or through the birth canal. It is the method most patients and doctors prefer. Benefits of vaginal births include shorter hospital stays, lower infection rates and faster recovery. A C-section, by contrast, is major surgery. It involves delivering the baby through an incision in the mother’s abdomen. It comes with certain risks for moms and babies.
Once you’re in labor, your uterus contracts to open (dilate) and thin out (efface) the cervix — the opening from the uterus to the vagina. This is so your baby can get out of the uterus through the birth canal.
Labor progresses in three stages:
Stage 1 includes early labor, when contractions begin and the cervix starts to change. It progresses to active labor, when contractions are stronger, last longer and are closer together. Next comes transition, when the cervix is fully dilated at 10 cm. This is the most difficult part of labor, with very powerful contractions.
Stage 2 is when you will start pushing. This can take as few as 20 minutes, or several hours. You’ll push during contractions and take a break between contractions. After your baby is born, the umbilical cord will be cut.
Stage 3 is delivery of the placenta, or afterbirth. About half an hour after giving birth, you’ll feel another set of contractions until the placenta is delivered.
You did it! You’ve delivered your baby. Now you can lie back, relax and cuddle your new little one.
By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor
For more information, please visit Optum's Health Library
Womenshealth.gov. Pregnancy: Labor and birth. Accessed August 9, 2018.
March of Dimes. Having a C-section. Accessed August 9, 2018.
March of Dimes. Stages of labor. Accessed August 9, 2018.
Last Updated: August 9, 2018
The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs and to determine whether making a lifestyle change or decision based on this information is appropriate for you. Some treatments mentioned may not be covered by your health plan. Please refer to your benefit plan documents for information about coverage.