Delivering a child into the world is perhaps one of the most memorable experiences that mothers will have in their lifetime. After all, giving birth is inherently beautiful, signaling a start of something new that comes with being a mother.
Pregnant women make many sacrifices throughout their nine months of pregnancy. That is why giving life to a newborn baby is one of the most highly anticipated experiences that a mother can have. There are no words that can describe how special it is to have your child in your arms for the first time.
If you are nearing your due date or even considering getting pregnant, you may be wondering what type of delivery option to choose when it comes to giving birth: vaginal delivery or cesarean section. Get to know the difference between the two and which may be a better option for you.
What is Vaginal Delivery?
Vaginal delivery occurs when the baby is pushed out of the mother’s uterus through the vagina. Vaginal deliveries can happen with or without pain medication. As opposed to being delivered surgically, vaginal deliveries require less medical intervention and sometimes no intervention at all.
This type of delivery is considered the most common type of birth in the world. Mothers who have low-risk pregnancies are good candidates for vaginal births. While labor and delivery is a biologically natural affair, it may still require the guidance of a trained medical staff to ensure the safety of both the mother and the baby.
During a normal delivery or vaginal birth, the mother will labor as her cervix dilates. At the same time, she will experience a series of contractions that will push the baby out of the uterus. There are three stages of labor: early, active, and transitional.
As labor progresses, the birthing mother will experience contractions that last longer and happen more frequently. As a general recommendation, if contractions come every 5 minutes, last for 1 minute each, and have been occurring consistently for at least 1 hour, that is a sign of active labor. This is a sign to get yourself to your birthing location right away, whether it be the hospital, a birthing center, or your home.
The Procedure Surrounding Natural Childbirth
Once the pregnant mother’s cervix has dilated to about 10 centimeters, she may feel ready to push her baby out into this world. The medical team may assist as she pushes, leading her baby to move down the birth canal. After the baby is safely delivered, minor contractions will continue, urging the mother to deliver the placenta.
If the baby and mother are well and vital signs are ok, the baby can join the birthing mother on her chest for skin-to-skin contact. This moment is very special for both baby and mother to bond in their new environment.
Depending on each individual, all three stages of labor in a vaginal delivery can take anywhere between a couple of hours to a few days. The process is largely dependent on the mother’s labor and contractions. Labor can last an average of around 12 to 14 hours for new moms.
Advantages of Choosing Vaginal Birth
There are numerous advantages and benefits that come with a vagina delivery. These include shorter hospital stays and faster recovery times for the mothers. The post-delivery pain might also be less compared to cesarian section delivery.
The recovery period after a vaginal birth lasts around three to six weeks, which is typically faster than recovery from a C-section. This is the time that the mother’s body needs to rest and heal from childbirth. If any medical procedures were performed during the birth, such as suturing from perineal tearing or an episiotomy, the mother might need the full six weeks to recover.
Besides the generally fast recovery time, another benefit to women who deliver vaginally is that they don’t have the scarring from the cesarean section incision. They are also less likely to have complications with blood clots, infections, and reactions to the anesthesia.
One of the reasons many mothers prefer vaginal delivery is that they are more likely to hold their baby immediately after the delivery, something that most mothers are unable to do after a C-section. When it comes to the overall costs of the hospital bill, vaginal deliveries generally cost less because less medical resources are needed, and the recovery time results in a shorter hospital stay.
Downsides to Natural Birth
Vaginal childbirth can be exhausting, especially since the birthing mother experiences contractions over and over again for the duration of the labor. Unmedicated vaginal birth is generally more exhausting than birth for mothers who opt for an epidural.
In addition to vaginal birth being physically taxing on the mother, it has its own set of possible complications. Pitocin to induce labor, an episiotomy, an amniotomy, forceps delivery, and vacuum extraction are all possible complications.
What Does Giving Birth Through C-Section Mean?
Cesarean section birth is considered a surgical procedure that is used to deliver a baby. It does so by making incisions through the abdomen and uterus to bring the baby out into the world. Unlike vaginal delivery, which can take hours or even days, cesarean birth is a procedure that takes about 45 minutes.
This procedure is usually performed when either the mother, the baby, or both parties are at risk of severe complications. A C-section may be suggested by the doctor if the unborn baby is in distress, the baby seems too big to be delivered vaginally, or the labor isn’t progressing as planned.
At times, a c-section may also be preferred when the mother is pregnant with multiples, when the unborn baby is in a breech position, or if there are umbilical cord complications.
Other considerations that have to be made when deciding to deliver via a c-section include the birthing mother’s medical history. If she has high blood pressure, diabetes, or has certain sexually transmitted diseases that may be passed on to her baby, a C-section might be a better option. Also, if a mother had previous c-section deliveries, she may be asked to consider cesarean delivery again to avoid the risk of uterine rupture.
Walking You Through the Cesarean Birth Process
This surgical procedure requires doctors and a team of medical professionals to make incisions in the birthing mother’s abdomen and uterus to pull the baby out into the world. The team of doctors will also cut the child’s umbilical cord and remove the placenta. Afterward, they will suture the incision closed.
This type of delivery requires women to be given either an epidural block or general anesthesia. Most women are awake for their c-section procedure, and this is possible through the epidural or a spinal block which works by preventing the lower half of the body to feelingfrom any pain.
However, if the doctor chooses to give the mother general anesthesia, she won’t be awake for the procedure. The doctors will check on the mother’s and baby’s vital signs and assess their health. Should everything be alright, they will be reunited.
Advantages of Opting for a Cesarean Birth
In medical emergencies or certain high-risk situations, choosing a cesarean delivery can be safer for both the mother and the baby.
An upside to having a c-section birth is that a mother can give birth at a scheduled time. It can be scheduled in advance, making it more efficient, predictable, and convenient for expecting moms, allowing them to be prepared.
What’s more, mothers recovering from a C-section can avoid suffering from pelvic organ prolapse as well as from urinary incontinence later in life.
Downsides to Cesarean Birth
Although the procedure for having a cesarean delivery is faster compared to vaginal birth, there are definitely downsides as well. This includes a longer hospital stay due to a longer recovery period. The birthing mother may be asked to stay up to five days after her c-section.
The first few days after the c-section can be quite challenging and uncomfortable, especially when there is accompanying pain due to the surgery. The recovering mother may continue to experience discomfort, bleeding, pain, or discharge until 4 to 6 weeks after the procedure, but these are all part of the healing process.
There are risks that come with getting a cesarean section. These include complications regarding infection, damage or injury to your bowel or bladder, possible interactions with the medication or anesthesia, blood loss, and blood clots.
Choosing the Right Approach for You
Now that you know more about these two delivery options make sure to weigh the varying degrees of risks that come with each particular approach. Although both of these delivery options are generally safe today, the circumstances surrounding these vary from one person to another.
If you have a low-risk pregnancy and have no health conditions or complications, you may be a good candidate for a vaginal delivery. This is also ideal if your baby is already positioned well.
However, if you believe that you have a high-risk situation and want you and your baby to have a smooth and safe delivery, opting for a cesarean birth may be your best choice.
While you are it, you may want to discuss with your health provider or medical insurance plan about the costs that come with a c-section or any complication that may arise from a vaginal delivery. This way, you can factor this into your decision-making process.
The Bottom Line
Childbirth is undoubtedly an emotional time for mothers. With the labor and delivery experience is unique to every individual, learning what works best for you and your needs can make your birthing journey even more memorable.
In the end, whether you are going for a vaginal delivery or a cesarean birth, the goal is to deliver a happy and healthy baby.
Vaginal delivery – Vaginal Delivery – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf
via a c-section – C-section – Mayo Clinic