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What Is Vaginal Childbirth?

Nicole Madison
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

When a woman gives birth to a child through her vagina, it is referred to as a vaginal childbirth. Most women give birth this way. Labor generally begins with contractions that cause a woman's cervix — the path between the uterus and vagina — to dilate, and the baby is then pushed from the uterus through the vagina. Vaginal childbirth often is painful, but generally occurs without serious complications. Vaginal births aren't the only way babies enter the world, however — in some cases, doctors cut into a woman's body and deliver her baby through an incision in a procedure called a Cesarean section.

Vaginal childbirth is a situation in which a woman delivers a child through the vaginal canal. Most women expect to give birth this way, as it is the natural exit from a woman's uterus to the outside world. When labor proceeds as expected, contractions stimulate the dilation, or opening, of the woman's cervix, which is the opening that leads from the uterus into the vagina. These contractions also serve to push the baby out of the uterus, through the cervix and vagina, and into the outside world. A woman helps this process along by bearing down and pushing in cooperation with her body's efforts.

Despite the fact that a woman's body is designed for vaginal childbirth, this type of birth is not without its troubling factors. Most women experience painful contractions during labor and childbirth, for instance, and many have burning sensations or tearing as they push their babies out of the vaginal canal. Often, expectant mothers also feel overwhelmed by the feeling of intense pressure in the vaginal area when the time comes to push. Still, most women have vaginal births without any serious complications, and many go on to choose this birthing method for subsequent children. Many even express pleasure at the thought of the way their bodies accomplish the birthing process.

Though the vaginal canal is the most natural route of delivery for a baby, it is not the only way a baby can exit his mother's uterus. Sometimes, babies are born via a type of surgery called a Cesarean section. With this type of surgery, a doctor makes an incision in a woman's abdomen and then in her uterus before gently removing the baby from the mother’s body through these incisions. Often, Cesarean sections become necessary because a mother's health, or that of her unborn baby, is suffering. In some cases, however, expectant mothers elect for this type of surgery for convenience or out of fear of a vaginal delivery.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By Pippinwhite — On Mar 31, 2014

I have a friend who had to have a C-section instead of a vaginal birth, and she has been really upset ever since that she was not able to give birth vaginally. From the links she has posted on her social media page, apparently this is the case with many women. There are support groups for women who are struggling with this issue.

She explained it to me as feeling somehow "lesser than" because she was not able to deliver vaginally. I am certainly sympathetic, and never want her to feel that her feelings are not valid, but I guess I would just be grateful to have a healthy child (and her son is), regardless of how he arrived into the world. He's a happy, healthy, intelligent little boy. In 20 years, will it matter whether she had him by C-section or not?

I'm not trying to diminish how she feels, but my goodness. So many children are born not healthy -- sometimes you really have to sit down and count your blessings. I think therapy to release these guilty/inadequate feelings would be helpful. They're not healthy, in my opinion.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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