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Vaginal Birth Banner | Birthing Methods | UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

Vaginal Birth

Everyone's experience is different, but most often your doctor will aim for you to deliver your baby vaginally. You can choose to have pain medication or opt for no medications during your delivery.

How to prepare for a vaginal delivery

One way to prepare is to create a birth preference. This includes your preferences for which people you want present, music playing, pain medications, and other elements you feel are essential to your experience. Just remember that your birthing team's goal is to ensure a safe, healthy delivery, and sometimes things don't go as planned.

Take classes to learn labor and relaxation techniques and what to expect from childbirth. You may also want to tour the birthing center in advance to see what you can expect at the hospital.

Vaginal birth risk factors and complications

Vaginal birth delivery is safe in most cases. Complications are rare, but there is a risk of infection, heavy bleeding, or hemorrhage with childbirth. You may also experience vaginal tearing, especially if this is your first child.

Sometimes the vaginal delivery may not go exactly as you planned. In a medical emergency, you may need to deliver by cesarean section. In other cases, the baby may have some difficulty coming out. If you're fully dilated and pushing, but the baby is not coming out, or the baby is facing the wrong direction, you may need assistance with the birth. Forceps and vacuum extraction are performed by an obstetrician to help guide your baby out of the birth canal.

  • Forceps: The health care provider applies forceps to the baby's head, while you continue to push as normal.
  • Vacuum extraction: The doctor applies a soft cup with a vacuum pump to your baby's head. You continue pushing, while the doctor guides your baby out.

These methods do pose additional risks, but serious injuries with the use of these methods are rare. Your health care provider will only suggest one of these methods if all other options have been exhausted. You can also choose a C-section.

What to Expect During a Vaginal Birth

As labor begins, your cervix will open (dilate) and thin (efface), preparing your body to deliver the baby. Contractions become stronger and closer together as your labor progresses.

Once in the hospital, you can begin your breathing and relaxation techniques or other methods you've practiced before childbirth. You may receive an epidural or other pain-control measures. Speak to your provider about these options.

When your cervix is fully dilated (10 cm), you may begin pushing with coaching from your nurse or midwife. Once your baby is born, you'll then push a little more to deliver the placenta. The care team will clean your baby and stitch any vaginal tears.

You will be able to have immediate skin-to-skin contact and may start breastfeeding.

Vaginal birth recovery

Most moms spend 24 to 48 hours in the hospital for a vaginal birth recovery. While in the hospital, you will receive fluids if needed and can have pain medication if desired as well. You may want ice packs applied to the perineum to ease pain and swelling.

You'll be sore in the vaginal area for days or even a couple weeks after your vaginal birth delivery. Once you go home, take it easy at first. The first bowel movement after delivery may be painful. You may find a sitz bath helpful for soreness. For a normal vaginal delivery, it can take four to six weeks to feel like yourself again and return to work. You may bleed for a few days to a couple weeks as well. Stick with light lifting and minimal chores at first.

Your health care provider or nurse will offer information on caring for yourself at home and when to call if you have problems.

Why Deliver at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital?

At Magee, we deliver nearly 10,000 babies a year. In a normal, healthy delivery, your baby stays with you and we have a sleep space for your partner or significant other. You have access to lactation consultants and other experts to help you through all steps of recovery and caring for your new baby.

To find out more about delivering at Magee, call 1-866-696-2433 to speak with a member of our staff.

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