Birth videos should be required viewing for soon-to-be parents. And not just a video of the birth you plan to have— be it C-section, vaginal birth, unmedicated birth, or home birth — but also the one that may happen if plans need to change, which they often do. Viewing a string of birth videos is certainly not the same as a casual Netflix binge, but doing so helps you learn about various procedures so you can be there for your partner.
Unlike Hollywood depictions or medical explanations of birth, the best live birth videos — many of which are posted to YouTube — give viewers the opportunity to see what it’s really like to be in the delivery room. They provide details about who does what during a birth, how long it may take from first contraction to last push, and some of the complications that may arise. They offer clarity about, for instance, the role of nurses, doulas, and midwives, how much pain relief a hot bath actually provides, and how long a C-section normally takes. So many fears are centered around the unknown, and watching birth videos can help parents visualize and prepare for the big day.
What are some live birth videos to watch? We collected a few here featuring hospital births, home births, C-section births, unmedicated births, and more. Some feature voiceovers from doctors that walk through the steps taking place, others simply show the particulars of delivery. Are they graphic? Yes. But they’re the real deal. And all help to (really) prepare parents for the big day.
A Medicated Vaginal Hospital Birth Video
In this video, an OBGYN reviews a video of a medicated vaginal hospital birth of a couple’s first child, and provides medical context. It’s a great introduction to medicated vaginal hospital birth, as Dr. Jones explains why laboring people are taken to triage before they’re admitted, why patients have to lean over during an epidural, what practice pushes are for, and why laboring people sometimes throw up. This particular video uses an example of a first time labor that progressed pretty quickly, and also illustrates what it’s like to wait for dilation when mothers opt for an epidural and aren’t in pain.
A Scheduled C-Section Birth Video
About 30 percent of babies born in the US are born via C-section. Some are scheduled, other times doctors and patients decide a C-section is the best option mid-labor, and sometimes emergency C-sections need to be performed for the immediate health of the baby or mother. In this case, parents arrive at the hospital early in the morning for a scheduled C-section. As it is a recent birth, the couple is screened for COVID-19 before the mother is hooked up to monitors and given an IV. The video shows dad getting dressed in scrubs while mom is taken and prepped for surgery. Later, he meets her in the operating room, where surgery has begun and he takes a seat by her head. When the baby is born doctors show the parents through a clear screen, and then mom is wheeled into a recovery room.
A Forceps Assisted Vaginal Delivery Birth Video
In cases where a vaginal delivery has reached the pushing stage and progress isn’t being made or the health of mom or baby is in danger, doctors will sometimes help things along by using forceps, a tong like instrument, to guide the baby out of the birth canal. This video details the process, showing a first time mom with a long labor who has trouble dilating. After days of labor she opts for an epidural. While she’s pushing the baby’s heart rate drops and the doctor decides the baby needs to be delivered as soon as possible. Because the baby is in danger, instead of waiting for the mother to be able to push the baby out, which can take hours, the doctor performs an episiotomy, a surgical incision in the vagina, and pulls the baby out with forceps.
An Unplanned Unmedicated Hospital Birth Video
This is an example of an unmedicated birth in which labor progressed quickly and mom got to the hospital too late to get an epidural. This can happen if you arrive at the hospital fully dilated and ready to push. Because an epidural can take a half hour to take effect (assuming the anesthesiologist is available immediately) in some cases it’s quicker to give birth than wait. After a first pregnancy, labors tend to progress more quickly. The mother, who has previously given birth, delivers the baby in the triage room because there’s no time to move. It’s hard to watch, but it illustrates how fast labor can progress in moms who’ve given birth before.
An Unmedicated Home Water Birth Video
For those opting for an unmedicated birth, laboring in a warm bath or pool can provide some pain relief. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says while being submerged in water during the early stages of labor might reduce the length of labor, giving birth in water hasn’t been well researched and should be considered experimental. If you’re considering a home water birth, this video provides a good idea of its pros and cons. The mother in the video goes into labor at home, calls the midwife, and labors in the tub. At one point her toddler even joins her. But without medication, you hear her yell and grunt in pain. She eventually delivers the baby on all fours, and the bath water turns dark. Afterwards, the mother cuts the cord, the tub is drained, the baby is weighed using a sling scale, and mom recovers in bed.
A Planned Unmedicated Hospital Birth Video
In this birth video, a mother delivers her third child without an epidural in a hospital, a type of delivery that is relatively uncommon. Though statistics vary by location, about 71 percent of women who gave birth vaginally in US hospitals in 2015 received an epidural. The video begins at home, where you see her labor and track her contractions. Then it follows her to the hospital, where she is taken to triage and has her cervix checked for dilation before being admitted. During delivery, as she pushes, you hear the doctor instruct her to ease up to avoid tearing, and once the baby’s shoulders are out mom reaches down and pulls her baby out with her hands. The video ends with the doctor explaining all of her decisions.
An Unmedicated Home Birth Video
Only about 1.6 percent of births in the U.S. occur outside of a hospital, a third of which take place in a birthing center, according to most recent data. These kinds of births are always unmedicated, as epidurals can only be administered by anesthesiologists in hospitals. This video shows a family preparing for a home birth by lining the floors with plastic sheets and calling their midwives. As mom labors around the house, walking around and getting in the bath, midwives check the baby’s heart rate. Mom eventually gives birth in bed on all fours, catching the baby with her hands.
An Induction Turned C-Section Birth Video
In this video, mom goes into the hospital to be induced for pregnancy and ends up having a C-section. This could happen if labor isn’t progressing or if the baby is in distress. You see her receiving pitocin, the drug that’s used to kickstart labor, then take a break from the pitocin as the baby’s heart rate drops. Then she uses a peanut ball, which is placed between the legs to help open up the pelvis and promote dilation. Once in the operating room, dad looks over the curtain to see the baby being born. Though it wasn’t planned, it wasn’t an emergency C-section, so things are relatively calm.
A Surrogate Birth Video
For parents who aren’t able or choose not to get pregnant themselves, surrogates provide an opportunity to have a child that is genetically related to them. Surrogates are hired by parents to get pregnant through insemination or IVF and give birth to the baby, but do not raise the baby as parents. In this vaginal birth video, you see a woman laboring and eventually delivering a baby boy as his dads watch. Afterwards, nurses measure the baby’s head and listen to his heartbeat, and then hand him off to his dads to do skin to skin.
A Vaginal Twin Birth Video
Though rare — about 75 percent of twins born in the U.S. are delivered via C-section — twins can safely be delivered vaginally in some cases. Here, the mom delivers the first twin, holds him for a minute, and then delivers the second with just a few pushes. Both babies are taken to be cleaned and given APGAR tests, and then the nurses bring them back to the mother as the doctor tends to her.