Types of Childbirth and Delivery Methods

a woman holding a baby

Labour & Childbirth Delivery Methods

Vaginal Delivery

Vaginal birth is delivering a baby through the birth canal. Many pregnant women in most parts of the world have a number of different options when choosing which setting they would like to give birth. A baby’s due date is an estimate of when a baby is likely to be born, but most women give birth at around 38 - 41 weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes medical intervention may be needed to assist with the birth. However, a vaginal delivery does not involve surgery.

Benefits of vaginal delivery:

  • You’ll avoid the risks of major surgery
  • Reduced need for strong pain relief after birth
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Quicker recovery
  • Reduced chance of medical problems in future pregnancies

Caesarean Section (C-Section)

A caesarean section or C-section is an operation to deliver a baby through a surgical incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. As a caesarean is a major operation, they are usually only done if it is the safest option for mother and baby. They can be planned (elective) if recommended or carried out in an emergency if a vaginal delivery is thought to be too risky.

Why might a C-Section be required?

There are a number of reasons why a caesarean is required, such as:

  • Multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc)
  • Previous C-Section or other conditions
  • Baby is breech (bottom first) or transverse (sideways) position
  • A large baby
  • Fibroid or other large obstruction
  • Placenta previa (placenta is low in the uterus and covers the cervix)

Vaginal Birth After Caesarean (VBAC)

Vaginal Birth after Caesarean (VBAC) is when a pregnant woman gives birth vaginally having had a caesarean previously. An estimated 75% of women who try VBAC have a successful vaginal delivery.

Sometimes a pregnancy complication or a condition prevents a successful VBAC and many hospitals do not offer a VBAC if they do not have the resources or staff to deal with emergency C-sections.

There are a number of risk factors to consider when thinking about a VBAC delivery:

  • If you have never had a vaginal birth
  • If you are overweight (BMI over 30)
  • Did not make progress in labour and needed a caesarean birth previously

Assisted Delivery

An assisted birth is when forceps or a ventouse cup are used to help deliver a baby, and happens in about one in eight births.

Why might I need an assisted birth?

  • you're too exhausted
  • baby is in an awkward position
  • baby's heart rate is causing concern

What happens during a forceps or ventouse delivery?

Forceps and ventouse are safe ways to deliver a baby, but there are some risks that should be discussed with you.

Forceps Delivery

A Forceps delivery is sometimes needed to help assist with vaginal childbirth. Forceps are smooth metal instruments shaped like a pair of large spoons or tongs. They are carefully applied to baby’s head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal. Your midwife will gently pull to help deliver your baby, with the help of your pushing and contractions.

Ventouse (Vacuum Extraction)

A ventouse (vacuum extraction) is a procedure sometimes needed to assist with vaginal childbirth. A vacuum extractor is a soft or rigid cup attached by a tube to a vacuum pump which fits firmly onto your baby’s head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal. With the help of your pushing, a midwife will gently pull to help delivery baby during a contraction.  

a woman in a bathtub with her hand on the edge of the tub preparing to give birth

Water Birth

A water birth is when you go through labour and/or give birth in water. Some hospitals and birth centres offer water births in a specially designed birthing pool. A doctor, nurse or midwife will help you through your labour and delivery. If you are planning a home birth, you can hire or buy an inflatable birth pool to use.

Healthy women with straightforward pregnancies, who go into labour after 37 weeks are usually considered low-risk and safe to have a water birth. If you have had a difficult pregnancy or have a medical condition you may not be able to use a birth pool if:

  • You are very overweight (have a BMI over 35)
  • Your labour is premature
  • You have epilepsy
  • Your labour was induced using an artificial hormone or if there are series concerns for your baby’s health

What are the pros of having a water birth?

  • Warm water can help manage painful contractions
  • Temperature and motion of the water can help you to feel more relaxed
  • Being in the water can make you feel lighter and more comfortable

What are the cons of having a water birth?

  • There is a chance that a birthing pool might not be available if you are planning on giving birth in a hospital or in a birth centre
  • If you are planning a water birth at home, hiring or buying a birthing pool can be expensive.
  • Contractions may not feel any less painful in a birthing pool. You may have to get out of the pool for alternative pain relief which could be stressful.

If complications during a water birth occur, you will need to get out of the pool if:

  • You feel sleepy or faint
  • Bleeding starts during labour
  • There are problems with baby’s heartbeat
  • The birthing pool becomes dirty
  • Your blood pressure goes up

We wish you all the best with your labour and delivery.

For more information on birth check out our Birth Hub where you will find lots of freebies and useful information.

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