C-Section Versus Natural Birth: two possible ways exist to deliver your baby: Vaginally (also known as a “natural” birth) or via Cesarean or C-section. While both are safe ways to deliver your baby, it’s important to know what will happen with either approach when you give birth.
An estimated 33 percent of women in the United States gave birth via C-section in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While this is a large number of C-section births, this doesn’t mean that most women simply choose at their doctor’s office to have a C-section versus a natural birth. Because a C-section is a surgical procedure and therefore has greater risks than a vaginal birth, there should be indications why C-section should occur. Examples of these indications include:
- Your baby is not turned the correct way, such as is feet down instead of head down
- Your baby’s size is such that it could not fit through the mother’s pelvis
- Previous C-section (vaginal birth after C-section increases the risk for complications)
- Prolonged labor where the baby won’t deliver vaginally
In these and some other instances, a doctor will recommend delivery via C-section to prevent complications with both mother and baby.
However, there are other considerations and differences to each approach to birth that are important to know when you go to have your baby. Even if your plan is to have a vaginal birth, it is possible you may need a C-section instead. Here are some differences between the two to keep in mind.
Length of Stay
Natural Birth: One to two days
C-Section: Two to three days
While length of stay can vary, you will typically stay longer with a C-section birth than a vaginal delivery. This is to ensure the incision in your uterus will not cause further complications and bleeding.
Complications Associated With Birth
Delivering vaginally gives a baby a natural “squeeze” that usually allows amniotic fluid to leave the lungs, enhancing breathing. Babies delivered via C-section don’t get the same squeeze. As a result, they can potentially have greater problems with their lungs or require more suctioning than babies delivered vaginally.
However, spending too long in the birth control can have the opposite positive effects on the baby. It can deprive the baby of oxygen. They may also have greater physical trauma from staying in the birth canal too long. This is why a doctor may recommend a C-section if labor is excessively prolonged.
Natural Birth: Unknown (unless induction is scheduled)
Some mothers who’ve had a C-section before and don’t wish to or cannot attempt a vaginal delivery may prefer the ability to schedule a C-section. In this instance, the mother will know when she is delivering and friends and family can make necessary arrangements to be at the hospital. While a doctor may plan an induction (giving medications to expedite a vaginal labor), the labor may take longer than a day and up to several days in some instances.
Surgical risks associated with C-section include blood loss, infection, blood clot formation, and injury to nearby organs, such as the bowel or bladder. Also, the recovery period following a C-section is usually longer than a vaginal birth.
If a woman delivers vaginally, it’s possible she may tear a portion of the vaginal tissue. This could result in the need for stitches, which are known as an episiotomy. This can increase infection risk as well as affect a women’s bowel and bladder function. However, the tear is much smaller than an abdominal incision used in a C-section.