Vaginal birth

Illustration: A black woman in a hospital gown, is laying in a hospital bed. She is surrounded by her Black female partner, two white hospital staff members, and another white woman. All individuals are wearing masks.

If you plan to have a vaginal birth, there are a variety of childbirth options available, so be sure to talk to your health care provider to decide what is right for you. Once you decide, consider creating a birth plan that details your preferences and needs, and share your plan with The Mother Baby Center care team.

Vaginal childbirth begins with labor to coax the baby through the birth canal. There are three stages of labor for a vaginal birth:

First stage of labor

The first stage of labor is when the cervix dilates (opens) to 10 centimeters and is divided into three phases: early, active and transition. Early labor is characterized by contractions shortening or thinning the cervix. During active labor, contractions are more regular and intense, which may require more coping techniques. Finally, the last two centimeters of dilation are called transition because it is the transition between the first and second stage of labor.

Second stage of labor

Second stage is the work of pushing your baby through your vagina (birth canal). It is more difficult than the distance suggests because your baby must turn to fit through your pelvis. The cervix thins and dilates during labor.

Third stage of labor

The third stage is the shortest and easiest; it is the birth of the placenta. During this stage, the placenta separates from the uterine wall and is expelled. This typically lasts 3 to 30 minutes after your baby’s birth. Contractions are less intense during this stage.

Learn more about the stages of labor.

Recovering from childbirth

If you had a vaginal birth, you may have had an episiotomy or tear that was repaired with stitches. These stitches are absorbable, so they do not have to be removed. After the repair, your nurse may put an ice pack on your perineum, the area around your vagina. This will help reduce swelling and provide relief.

Learn ways to promote healing and relieve tenderness when you return home.