Types of Delivery



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There are many decisions you must make about your baby’s birth. But you must be flexible, as births are unpredictable and don't always go as you plan. Take time during your pregnancy to learn about all types of birth and discuss with one of our providers any questions you may have.


Vaginal Delivery


A vaginal birth is the most common method of childbirth. It is the natural delivery of the baby through the birth canal and vagina. It usually begins when the mother has labored until the cervix has dilated 10 centimeters. Women who give birth this way can breastfeed more easily, do not have to stay in the hospital or the clinic for very long and can avoid the risks involved with major surgery, such as a C-section.

During the labor process, women may experience stress, discomfort, and even pain. Depending on the birthing plan agreed upon by the woman and her practitioner, medication or other treatment may be applied to ease the situation, but you can still choose not to take them. If you are knowledgeable enough about the various alternative methods of pain management, you can easily avoid an epidural, or a spinal block and have a natural birth. Even in a hospital, your decision will be respected if you inform your doctor in advance. If you do choose to take pain killers, such as an epidural, they will help you to deal with the pain while keeping you alert enough to actively participate in the birthing process.


Assisted Vaginal Delivery


During about one tenth of births, doctors turn to forceps or a vacuum extractor to get the baby out. This is often the case when the baby's heartbeat becomes slow or erratic in its journey out of the womb, you're too tired to summon that final push, or you've pushed for hours with little progress. These tools don't necessarily cause problems, but they have been known to bruise the baby's head or tear the vagina or cervix. It's rare, but the use of these instruments during delivery can also increase the risk of tears to the anal sphincter, which controls bowel movements.


Cesarean Section


This is a surgical method of childbirth in which the doctor makes an incision in the abdomen and the uterus to remove the baby. C-Sections have a longer recovery time than normal delivery, and even a few weeks after the birth, there may be certain restrictions you will have to follow.

About one in five births is performed by cesarean -- one may even be planned if your baby is in a breech (feet/bottom first) or transverse (sideways) position, or if you have preeclampsia or an active herpes infection. Surprise cesareans happen when labor stalls or problems arise in the womb. If you need one, you'll most likely have an epidural or spinal rather than a general anesthetic. During a c-section, a doctor usually makes a horizontal incision through the skin and abdominal wall, moves the muscles aside, and opens the uterine wall. The incision is closed with stitches that dissolve in the body.

This method is usually suggested for women who are at risk of complications or birth defects, are having multiple babies or who have certain health conditions that may pose problems during a vaginal birth.


Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Delivery (VBAC)


Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Delivery (VBAC) is the vaginal birth of a baby after a woman has already had a cesarean delivery of a previous baby. There are several advantages in attempting a VBAC: no abdominal surgery and faster recovery resulting in shorter hospital stays.

Several factors (small pelvis, baby's health) will determine whether a VBAC is a good choice for you. Alaska Women's Health does offer women the option of having a VBAC if they meet certain criteria so please talk with your provider if you are interested in this option. They will discuss these factors and the best delivery solution for your baby.