Vaginal birth

A vaginal birth relies on your body's natural ability to bring your baby into the world. The two main sensations you will experience are pain and pressure. There are a number of different pain relief options to support you through this.

Sixty percent of women who have had a previous caesarean can have a vaginal birth. If you have has a previous caesarean and are considering a vaginal birth, please take a look at our page on Positive Birth After Caesarean.

Assisted birth

A small number of women will need assistance with their births, either by forceps or ventouse (vacuum extraction). The obstetrician will choose which is best for your situation:

  • Forceps - These are a pair of spoon-shaped tongs that fit around the baby's head, so the baby can be gently guided down and out of the birth canal as you are pushing.
  • Ventouse - A ventouse is a metal, rubber or plastic cup that fits on the top of the baby's head and is held there by suction. The baby can be gently pulled to assist with delivery as you are pushing.

Caesarean section

A caesarean section involves using surgery to bring your baby into the world. A cut is made and the baby is lifted out by a clinician. You should not feel any pain. Most caesarean operations are performed with an epidural anaesthetic, which allows you to be awake when your baby is born. Your doctor or the anaesthetist will discuss and explain which anaesthetic is best for you.

Caesarean sections are carried out because a vaginal birth is not possible or safe. It can be just as satisfying as a vaginal delivery and you should not feel this is in any sense a failure.

For more information take a look at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist information sheet on Choosing to Have a C Section(external link), the National Women's Caesarean Section information leaflet [PDF, 806 KB] or the video below.