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The different types of delivery: What every mama-to-be should know about childbirth

ByTiffany ReyesJune 27, 2023
pregnant mom preparing for childbirth
About 140 million mamas give birth every year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of this number, deliveries vary, depending on the circumstance and the health of the mama and the baby.
The most common types of birth include the following:
  • Vaginal Birth.
  • Natural Birth.
  • Scheduled Cesarean.
  • Unplanned Cesarean.
  • Vaginal Birth after C-Section (VBAC)
  • Scheduled Induction
Some expectant mamas may have an idea on what type of birth they will have, like the scheduled Cesarean, but some could have a different turn, like emergency Cesarean in cases where a baby needs to be delivered immediately (example: cord coil). Mamas may also enroll in birth classes so they have an idea what to expect during labor.
There are different types of birth or birth procedures, and these are often determined by the specific circumstances of each pregnancy.
Most people likely know at least the two most common types of childbirth: normal and C-section delivery. But there are actually many variations on these two types, and it will be helpful for expectant mamas (and dads!) to know each one of them. Knowledge of these different types of birth can go a long way in helping future parents make informed choices about pregnancy and childbirth.
Here’s a basic guide to the different types of birth.
Normal or Vaginal Delivery
Normal or vaginal delivery is as it sounds: the baby is delivered through the mother’s vagina or birth canal. According to my.clevelandclinic.org, this is “the most preferred and most common way to deliver a baby because it carries the lowest risk (in most cases).” We may also consider this the “traditional” method of delivery, since before the development of other methods and techniques in giving birth, this was essentially the only method there was for a long time.
One of the reasons why vaginal delivery is preferred is the fact that it is generally considered the safest method for both mother and child. C-section or “Cesarean” operations include the risk of complications from major surgery.
Types of vaginal delivery
It is worth noting that there are several kinds of vaginal delivery. One is spontaneous vaginal delivery. We can say that this type of delivery is “as nature intended,” meaning there is no specific medical intervention used to aid the delivery. The reproductive system of the mother simply goes through the normal process of delivery, and the mother aids this by “pushing.”
There is also “induced labor” wherein doctors induce vaginal delivery using special procedures and drugs. This is sometimes done when the baby is overdue, or when there are other issues that prevent spontaneous vaginal birth from happening.
Related to induced labor is assisted vaginal delivery (AGD). Sometimes issues may arise during vaginal delivery which necessitate the use of tools to help pull out the baby. Doctors may use forceps, which is a tool that grasps the baby’s head and assists it in getting through the birth canal. Doctors may also use a suction cup on the baby’s head, and this is known as vacuum extraction delivery.
The other well-known type of delivery is the C-section. C-section entails surgically delivering the baby using incisions on the mother’s abdomen and uterus. According to my.clevelandclinic.org, “a C-section delivery might be planned in advance if a medical reason calls for it, or it might be unplanned and take place during your labor if certain problems arise.”
Planned or scheduled C-section delivery is done when a condition is discovered during prenatal examination which prevents normal vaginal delivery. For instance, prenatal examination may reveal that the baby is in the “breech” position, making normal vaginal delivery difficult. The mother may also have certain medical conditions that make normal delivery risky, such as high blood pressure. The doctors and parents decide in advance that C-section is to be done when labor begins.
Unplanned or emergency C-section is done when, in the course of normal vaginal delivery, certain issues come up which necessitate surgically delivering the baby. For example, the umbilical cord may wrap around the neck of the baby during normal delivery, which can be fatal. Doctors and parents decide to do emergency C-sections to safeguard the health of both mother and child.
There is also a kind of planned or scheduled C-section known as “elective” C-section. This is done for nonmedical reasons, such as when parents want to have more control in determining the actual birth date of their child. It should be noted though that this kind of procedure is usually discouraged.
There are risks associated with C-section delivery, mainly stemming from it being major surgery. These risks include infection, blood loss, and a longer recovery period. These risks must be taken seriously when C-section delivery is considered.
Research from the WHO shows that C-section “continues to rise globally, now accounting for more than 1 in 5 (21%) of all childbirths, a number that will likely increase over the coming decade, “with nearly a third (29%) of all births likely to take place by Cesarean section by 2030.”
While a C-section is essential and life-saving, “it can put women and babies at unnecessary risk of short- and long-term health problems if performed when there is no medical need,” the WHO added.
Other types of birth
Certain aspects of the basic kinds of delivery can be combined to form other kinds of delivery. For example, there is Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). When a mother has had a previous C-section delivery, a vaginal birth may be problematic because the uterus may rupture. But VBAC can still be done if doctors determine that it is safe for both mother and child.
There is also what is known as “Scheduled Induction” or “Elective Labor Induction.” According to mayoclinic.org, this “is the starting of labor for convenience when there's no medical need.” Scheduled induction may be offered to, for instance, women who live far from a hospital or birthing facility. Scheduled induction may be done during the 39th to 40th weeks of pregnancy.
A more specific kind of vaginal delivery is “water birth.” In this kind of delivery, the mother gives birth in a tub of warm water. This method supposedly helps reduce the stress of childbirth for both mother and child. This method carries its own set of risks, and some hospitals do not carry this option. Currently, this is rarely done compared to the other types of birth.
Water birth is also not recommended for the following:
  • Women who have a painful labor or childbirth, including a previous C-section
  • Those who have chronic condition such as hypertension, diabetes or herpes (which is
  • easier to spread in water)
  • Those who have risk of pregnancy such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia
  • Mothers who have their babies in breech position
  • Those whose baby is expected to be delivered significantly earlier than usual
  • Mothers who are expecting two or more babies
Every labor is unique
While mamas have ideal delivery scenarios, perhaps dreaming of painless or easy childbirth, each labor is unique. What’s important however is that women are being treated with respect during the procedure.
“Each stage should be a positive experience, ensuring women and their babies reach their full potential for health and well-being,” the WHO said.
WHO also noted that childbirth must be a woman-centered approach.
“Critical components of a woman-centered approach include: avoiding unnecessary medical interventions, encouraging women to move around freely during early labour, allowing them to choose their birth position and have a companion of their choice by their side. It also means ensuring privacy and confidentiality and providing adequate information about pain relief,” WHO added.

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