A baby can be born either through a vaginal birth or surgically with a caesarean section. Vaginal birth is the natural process of delivering a baby through your vagina or birth canal.
The process of a vaginal birth is categorized into 3 stages:
First stage: This stage is called labour, and commences with the dilation and thinning of your cervix to allow your baby to travel down the birth canal. The dilation of your cervix is characterized by contractions, which can be mild to moderate, lasting for 30 to 90 seconds. A thick, stringy, blood-tinged liquid may discharge through the vagina. As time passes, the dilations become more rapid and the contractions stronger, at closer intervals, and last longer.
Second stage: This stage is the birth of your baby and usually lasts from a few minutes up to several hours depending on your baby’s position. During this stage, your cervix is completely dilated and uterine contractions are frequent. With each contraction you are encouraged to push hard. After your baby’s head emerges, the rest of their body is delivered. The umbilical cord is clamped and cut, and the airway is cleared.
Third stage: During this stage, the placenta, the organ that was nourishing your baby through pregnancy, is expelled from the vagina. Gentle uterine massage can help in its release. Any remaining parts within the uterus are removed to prevent bleeding and infection.
After delivery, you will be allowed to go home in a day or two if there are no medical problems or complications. Your postpartum care includes:
- You may feel tired and sleepy as your body is still undergoing major changes. Make sure to get adequate rest, eat nutritious food and increase your intake of fluids to promote healing and adequate breast milk production.
- Vaginal bleeding may continue for up to 8 weeks following the birth of your baby. Inform your doctor if you experience discharge of large blood clots, foul odour or high fever during this time.
- A high fibre diet or stool softeners will help soften stools as bowel movements may be painful after childbirth.
- Take warm baths to soothe and relieve discomfort in the vulva and perineal areas.
- Start breastfeeding your baby regularly from birth.
- You can start exercising when you are comfortable after consulting your doctor.
The possible risks and complications associated with a vaginal birth include:
- Pain and discomfort in your vaginal area
- Discharge of large blood clots, high fever or foul odour.
- Postpartum depression, which can be very serious, impacting your ability to care for your new baby.
- Urine leakage for a few months when you cough, sneeze or laugh. This is normal and will resolve.
- Deep vein thrombosis or blood clots in the legs.
Vaginal birth is the natural process of giving birth. Delivering a baby naturally is an exhausting and emotional experience. Various physiological changes will happen in your body after giving birth, including hormonal and emotional changes. It is important that you follow up as recommended by your OBGYN for your post pregnancy health and with your paediatrician for your baby’s health.