Childbirth is mysterious, mystical and miraculous. Whether a baby comes through the vagina or by cesarean section, seeing a baby being born is the kind of experience you will likely never forget.
At the point of delivery:
- The mother has labored through the first stage to full dilation of the cervix.
- She pushed during the second stage and her baby is almost to the entrance of her vagina.
- Uterine contractions are now further apart and perhaps less intense.
The Vaginal Delivery
The baby is now ready to be born and complete the second stage of labor. This is what childbirth looks like through the vagina:
- The mother is put in position with her knees bent or legs in stirrups, either in her birthing room or a room in the delivery suite.
- The doctor might perform an episiotomy at this stage to avoid uncontrolled tears to the vagina and rectum.
- The obstetrician or midwife asks the mother to resume pushing, usually during contractions.
- With more pushing the baby's head stretches the vaginal opening further and bulges the labia, perineum and anus.
- Now you can just see the head appear at the opening (crowning).
- The mother pushes and the doctor guides the head out slowly through the vagina. The top of the head, forehead, eyes, nose, mouth and chin appear in succession.
- When the baby's whole head appears out of the vagina, the mother is asked to stop pushing and pant.
- The doctor then has time to suction amniotic and vaginal fluids from the mouth and nose of the baby.
- Usually with another push or two, the shoulders and the rest of the baby is delivered with a cry of freedom from the baby as he takes his first breath.
- A gush of amniotic fluid, and sometimes blood from the placenta, usually follows the baby.
- Baby is passed to a nurse, who does a quick assessment of baby's birth health (APGAR scores) and cleans her up.
- Nurse lays the baby on the mother's chest.
- The placenta now separates, usually easily, from the wall of the uterus and is delivered through the vagina, followed by some blood.
- This completes the third stage of the labor and delivery process which started hours before.
A cesarean birth (C/section) is a surgical delivery of a baby. Whether a cesarean section is planned (elective) or emergent, the steps in the procedure are the same and planned ahead of time.
The Cesarean Delivery
This is what childbirth looks like with a C/section delivery:
- The mother lies on the delivery operating table and is prepared for surgery with an epidural or general anesthesia.
- Once the mother has adequate anesthesia, her belly is draped with sterile sheets.
- Using a scalpel (knife), the obstetrician and his assistant cut through the skin and other layers of the belly. Bleeding from these layers is taken care of by the surgeons as they go along.
- After cutting the last thin layer (the peritoneum) the pregnant uterus with baby can now be seen.
- You might be able to see the surgeons packing the bowel away into the upper abdominal cavity with surgical towels to keep them out of the way.
- You may or may not be able to see inside the belly and see the pregnant uterus depending on where you are standing.
- A cut is next made in the uterus and amniotic sac, careful to avoid cutting the baby.
- The amniotic fluid gushes out and is suctioned away. The amniotic fluid may be blood tinged from the incision in the uterus.
- A part of the baby is now just visible, through the incision, inside the uterus.
- The presenting part (in the lower end of the uterus) of the baby (head, bottom or feet) is now delivered through the opening in the uterus, and then the rest of the baby.
- The umbilical cord is clamped and cut.
- The delivery of the baby is now complete.
- Baby is passed from the operating table to a nurse who cleans him and does a quick birth assessment (APGAR scores) and passes him off to the mother.
- The obstetrician and assistant meanwhile continues the surgical work to deliver the placenta and repair the surgical incisions.
View videos to see vaginal childbirth during different scenarios including, natural childbirth, teens giving birth, and giving birth in water. These videos can help you view childbirth in action from a different perspective than while you are giving birth.
A Special Moment
To see a woman giving birth either vaginally or by cesarean section is a special and memorable moment. Though there are several steps involved in childbirth, and complications are possible, most women and babies come through the process without harm.