Are "a normal birth", "a vaginal birth" and "a natural birth" almost the same thing in terms of meaning, they are opposite of caesarian? Can I use these words interchangeably?

I found those words from a dictionary in Korean. But one of my friends said that "a normal birth" is only used in common. But I think those three words are the almost same and interchangeable. They all mean giving birth without any intervention like a surgery (caesarean). So I think "I had my son by a natural birth / vaginal birth / normal birth" all make sense. Is that right?

Thanks for your help in advance!!

  • It is only the difference between natural/vaginal/normal. If needed, a dictionary should define the difference. If not, tell us why.
    – user3169
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 6:07
  • 2
    I think the differences are a little beyond what a dictionary might say. Regardless, @Young, you should provide your research to avoid more close votes (you got another--5 regular votes or 1 mod vote = close). What I meant the first time was, what did the dictionary entries (actually) say? What differences (or similarities) did you find and why wasn't that helpful? See Details, Please and the Contributor's Guide (Asking) for tips and examples.
    – Em.
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 6:50
  • Thanks @user3169 for your answer. I google them again. And I find my question was wrong. I wondered if they are all common words and interchangeable..
    – Young
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 7:17
  • I appreciate @Em telling me about votes. I didn't know about it. I mean, if my question is not proper I would got minus votes and my question would be closed. Thanks for your advice again. I think I'm still clumsy at making proper question here. I should read the above link about the guide again.
    – Young
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 7:23

3 Answers 3


I would say they are technically the same although...

normal / natural birth

...could imply that a caesarian might not be normal or natural. Therefore if you were being extra careful to not offend, then you might try vaginal birth.

  • 1
    I'm under the impression that normal birth and natural birth do not have universally agreed upon meanings and that they can be different (not interchangeable). However, that's way beyond my knowledge. I do have a couple of links that could be of interest: normal birth, natural birth.
    – Em.
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 7:44
  • Thank @Jonathan Race so much for your answer. A "normal birth" or "natural birth" can offend. I haven't thought that way. I should be careful with these words and I would say "vaginal birth" if I have to say about it. Thanks so much again.
    – Young
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 7:56
  • 1
    Just to clarify. I'm not saying that if you say "normal / natural" it will definitely offend. A lot of people won't care but... some might be sensitive so if you want to take the extra step to avoid any embarrassing situations then it's something to consider :) Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 8:52
  • I’d like to add that I think the best term to use might well depend on how the conversation had been progressing. This type of information isn’t typically volunteered and announced out of the blue.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 11:20

It really depends on the culture. In the USA, a 'normal' birth would be one performed by a doctor in a hospital setting regardless of if it's vaginal or cesarean, a 'vaginal' birth would be any birth that wasn't a cesarean birth, and a 'natural' birth would be a vaginal birth conducted by a midwife in a home, sometimes accompanied by standing and/or water.


"Natural birth" has come to mean one with a minimum of medical assistance; often one done at the mother's home with a midwife, rather than at the hospital; or perhaps that they plan to avoid labour-inducing drugs, for example.

"Vaginal birth" is obviously in contrast to Caesarian section.

I would be careful with "normal". Medical professionals may use it, with very specific meaning relative to outcomes; that it was not a breech birth, for example, or that there were no other complications. But informally "normal" can carry a lot of judgement and may well be perceived as rude.

As to whether a medical professional would include Caesarians in the "normal" category, I don't know. Might depend on the reason the Caesarian was chosen; some are done in emergencies when a vaginal birth goes wrong, but others are planned ahead of time for various reasons.

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