A woman can give birth two ways: either through a vaginal birth or by way of a surgical procedure known as a Cesarean section, or C-section.
C-sections are often planned because of medical reasons in order to make the pregnancy safer for the mother and baby; as well as sometimes being necessary when delivering a large baby or if the baby is not in the right heads-down position before birth.
C-sections can also be unplanned in emergency situations if the mother or the baby’s life is at risk, or they can even be elective and decided on for non-medical reasons.
Both ways are perfectly normal and safe ways for a pregnant woman to bring a baby into the world and are decided upon when determining which way is best for the woman to give birth. However, both methods of delivery have their separate pros and cons each.
- Provides a more natural birthing experience: Delivering a baby through a vaginal birth is often said to be more of a natural experience for the mother than delivering through a C-section. Women often report a sense of empowerment and accomplishment after delivering a baby through vaginal birth, as they are more active in the birthing process, helping to push the baby through their birth canal.
- Quicker recovery time: Women who give birth vaginally have a shorter recovery time and less pain after the birth than those who give birth through C-section delivery. This allows for a shorter hospital stay, for about 24 to 48 hours, and allows for the mother to bond with their baby immediately after the delivery.
- Less risks associated: Women who go through vaginal birth avoid some of the major health risks that can occur with C-section deliveries. Since they avoid major surgery, the potential effects that can occur with a surgery, such as severe bleeding, scarring, infection, reactions, and pain, are not an issue. The decreased risk of maternal hemorrhage, blood clots, and damage to internal organs is a definite plus for women who deliver through vaginal births.
- Risk of tears: During vaginal birth, there is a risk that the skin and tissues surrounding the vagina can stretch and tear during the delivery as the baby pushes through the birth canal. This stretching and tearing can be severe and cause the need for stitches, or it can result in weakness to the pelvic muscles. Because of this, some women may experience lingering pain.
- Added stress: The additional stress and fear of childbirth can cause women to experience anxiety and turmoil. Some deliveries can take hours depending on the case, and the added stress and pain can cause the mother to be distressed and uncomfortable for a long period of time.
- Small risks for the baby: While vaginal births are mostly healthy for the baby, there are some risks associated in certain situations. The baby can be at risk of oxygen deprivation because of umbilical cord compression or other complications during delivery, as well as additional trauma to the baby as they pass through the birth canal. Added, but not common, complications of vaginal birthing can also include hemorrhaging and damage to the pelvic organ.
- Convenience: If a woman is having a planned C-section, the birth can be scheduled in advance which can make it more predictable and efficient than the sudden onset of a vaginal birth and labor. This can allow the mother to have more of a sense of control and comfort in being able to plan for the baby easier. C-sections also eliminate the potentially long hours of hard labor that some mothers experience with vaginal birth.
- Necessary alternatives: For large babies, or in the case of twins, a C-section may be a healthier and safer alternative for delivery in order to avoid possible complications during vaginal birth. Additionally, C-sections can decrease the risk of passing an infection on to your baby, so mothers who have certain diseases, such as HIV, are better off delivering through a C-section.
- Reduce the risks associated with vaginal birth: Delivery through C-section can decrease a number of potential risks to the baby, such as oxygen deprivation during delivery and reduced risk of trauma that happens when the baby is passing through the birth canal. Additionally, C-sections reduce the risk of possible incontinence for the mother.
- Longer recovery time: A mother who delivers through a C-section has a longer recovery period and must stay in the hospital longer, on average about two to four days, whereas women who undergo vaginal births have a faster recovery rate. There is also an increased risk for longer lasting physical pain after birth, such as pain where the incision is made and an increased lasting soreness. Due to increased pain in the abdomen around the surgical scar, the mother will take more time to heal.
- Increased risk of surgical complications: Because a C-section delivery is a surgery, there are risks that come along with undergoing a surgical procedure. This includes an increased risk of blood loss and infection, as well as injury to the bowel or bladder, or a possible blood clot formation. The mother and baby are also at a greater chance of dying during a C-section delivery because of the possible complications, and there is generally a higher risk of damage to the mother and infant.
- Possible C-section re-occurrence: Women who deliver through a C-section are more likely to need a C-section delivery in their future pregnancies, also putting her at a greater risk of future pregnancy complications and placenta abnormalities. The internal scar tissue can cause potential problems in future C-sections.