Induction C-Section Vaginal Birth: Just the Facts


Just like with most things in life, there’s more than one way to have a baby. About two-thirds of births in the United States are vaginal, and the other third of babies are born via C-section. Here’s a look at how both procedures usually work.

Vaginal Birth

In a typical vaginal birth, the mother starts feeling contractions, which get stronger and closer together as her body works to soften and open the cervix to that magic number of 10 centimeters. These contractions hurt, especially as the cervix dilates those last two or three centimeters, but there are ways to manage or even eliminate the pain (including medications).

Once the cervix is fully dilated, it’s time to start pushing the baby through the birth canal and out into the world. As the baby’s head and shoulders come out, there’s a sort of burning pain known as the “ring of fire.” After the baby is all the way out, mild contractions will continue until the placenta is delivered—the mom might not even notice this, as she’ll probably be holding her newborn.


Sometimes a mother needs to have labor induced—this could be because a pregnancy has gone past its due date or because of some type of complication. There are a few ways to induce labor:

  • Medication can be given to start or speed up contractions.
  • The doctor may tear the amniotic sac (break the water).
  • Synthetic hormones or other measures may be used to thin and soften the cervix.


A C-section may be planned in advance, in which case the mother will arrive at the hospital on the scheduled day and be wheeled into the operating room. It might also become necessary after the mother has already gone into labor. Either way, the procedure is essentially the same.

Pain medication and/or an epidural will be given (the mother is typically awake and alert during the birth), and the doctors will make a small incision in the abdomen. The stomach muscles will be pulled out of the way (making for an interesting, but not painful, tugging sensation), and another incision will be made in the womb. Then, it’s just a matter of pulling the baby out, cutting the umbilical cord and removing the placenta. While mom holds her new baby, the doctor will use stitches and glue to seal up the incisions.

Learn more by registering for our free Understanding Birth class.