Types of Delivery

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on September 05, 2022

What Are the Types of Delivery?

Unassisted Vaginal Delivery/Natural Childbirth

Vaginal delivery is the most common and safest type of childbirth. You’ll probably hear the term “natural childbirth” used to describe a vaginal delivery without medication for pain or to start or speed up labor. Some mothers will still choose to have other medical help during labor like a monitor for the baby’s heart.

Assisted Vaginal Delivery

Forceps delivery. Sometimes the doctor has to use forceps (instruments resembling large spoons) to cup your baby's head and help guide the baby through the birth canal.

Vacuum extraction. Vacuum delivery is similar to forceps delivery. In this procedure, the doctor uses suction to apply a plastic cup to the baby's head and gently pull the baby from the birth canal.

Episiotomy. This is a surgical cut in the tissue between your vaginal opening and anus. This tissue is called the perineum. Doctors once thought it prevented large vaginal tears during childbirth, but newer research suggests that’s no longer true. Today, many doctors will only do the procedure if they need to quickly deliver your baby.

Amniotomy. This is also known as “breaking your water.” The doctor uses a small plastic hook to make an opening in your amniotic sac. You may feel a warm rush of fluid.

Induced labor. This is when the doctor starts contractions before labor begins on its own. They may suggest this if they’re concerned about your or your baby’s health.

Cesarean Section

Vaginal delivery may not always be possible. Caesarean delivery (C-section) may be necessary for the safety of you and your baby, especially for one or more of these reasons:

  • Your baby isn’t in the head-down position. Instead, they are in a breech or transverse position.
  • The baby is too large to pass through the pelvis.
  • Your baby is in distress.
  • You’re carrying more than one baby.
  • Your placenta covers the opening of your cervix. This is called placenta previa.
  • Your labor isn’t progressing.
  • The umbilical cord slips through your cervix before the baby does.
  • Your placenta has separated from the inner wall of your uterus before delivery. This is a placental abruption.
  • You’ve had a previous C-section.

Vaginal Birth After C-Section (VBAC)

Most women who have had a C-section may be able to have a vaginal birth later on. Your chances go up if:

  • The surgeon made a horizontal incision in your uterus during your C-section called a low transverse incision.
  • Your pelvis is large enough to fit an average-sized baby.
  • You’re pregnant with one baby instead of multiples.
  • Your first cesarean was due to a breech labor.

Most often, the need for a cesarean delivery is not determined until after labor begins. Once you have a cesarean delivery, your risk of uterine rupture goes up during future vaginal deliveries.

Show Sources


American Pregnancy Association.

American College of Nurse-Midwives: “Normal, Healthy Childbirth for Women & Families: What You Need to Know.”

Banner Health: “Natural Childbirth.”

Mayo Clinic: “Episiotomy: When it's needed, when it's not,” “Labor induction,” “Placental abruption,” “C-section.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Pregnancy: Types of Delivery.”

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