Vaginal Birth vs. C-Section
Choosing between c section vs normal delivery can be a tough decision. Neither of the two methods can be considered “better” than the other. Both have certain risks and complications, as well as certain misconceptions and fears associated with them. To set the record straight and to put some of those fears to rest, we asked Dr. Deepika Aggarwal, a senior Obstetrician, and Gynecologist in Gurgaon, for her inputs on safe birthing.
What’s the difference in Overall Process and Recovery time?
C- sections are relatively faster, with the entire process taking just about 30 to 40 minutes from start to finish (the baby is born in the first 5 minutes), whereas labor and delivery can last up to 12 – 14 hours. However, in case there are no major complications, then recovering from a vaginal delivery is significantly easier and quicker than recovering from a C-section. With a vaginal delivery, you’ll be able to hold your bundle of joy immediately after birth and may not need to stay in the hospital for more than 24 hours. Women undergoing C-section typically stay in the hospital longer (3-4 days, depending on their medical condition). C-section might also lead to more physical complaints following delivery, such as pain or infection at the site of the incision and longer-lasting soreness.
Benefits of Vaginal Delivery over C-section
The biggest benefit of vaginal deliveries over C-sections is that mothers can avoid major surgery and its associated risks, such as severe bleeding, scarring, uterine infections, reactions to anesthesia, blood clots in legs like deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism, and more longer-lasting pain. However, there remains a risk that in vaginal births, the skin and tissues around the vagina can stretch and tear (perineal tears) as the fetus moves through the birth canal. Occasionally one can suffer weakness or injury to one’s pelvic muscles that control her urine and bowel function; mostly, these damages are reversible (with pelvic floor exercises), but the reversal can take up to 6 months.
Breastfeeding Initiated Early
Mothers giving birth through vaginal deliveries can start breastfeeding almost immediately after the baby is born. Some mothers undergoing C-section, on the other hand, will take longer to initiate breastfeeding. In some women, C-sections can also cause a slight delay in breast milk production; however, this condition too does not last long.
Avoid a greater possibility of future C-sections
A birth via c section delivery vs normal delivery increases the odds of the mother requiring a C-section for subsequent births. Although 70-80% of women who attempt labor after a C-section have successful deliveries, according to Dr. Deepika Aggarwal, scar rupture can happen in 0.5% of women who attempt a vaginal birth after one previous cesarean section (should they go into spontaneous labor). This can lead to severe blood loss in the mother and/or brain damage or death of the baby.
Lowers chances of breathing problems in children
The labor process releases hormones that help the baby cope with lung fluid so that they can breathe easier. Being pushed through the birth canal also squeezes out the fluid found in a newborn’s lungs. Since C-section mothers don’t go through labor, their babies might not benefit in the same way and may develop respiratory issues, although rare, especially when the delivery happens at term.
Chance of higher immunity
Babies born vaginally get a boost to their immune system due to the good bacteria they receive as they travel through their mother’s birth canal. This also helps to protect their intestinal tracts. This is unfortunately missed in C-section deliveries.
Higher Apgar Scores
Apgar testing analyzes your infant’s well-being after birth. C-section babies tend to have lower scores. However, this could possibly be because of the anesthesia used in the process or perhaps due to the reason why C-section was opted for over vaginal delivery (fetal distress, non-progressing labor, etc.) in the first instance.
Advantages of C-sections over vaginal births
Can be Scheduled
Labour can trigger at any time as the expected due date of the baby draws near, and this can cause problems depending upon the location of the mother. A C-section can be scheduled ahead of time, making it more convenient and predictable and ensuring that the mother is well within reach of medical assistance at the time of the baby’s birth.
Helps avoid complications during Labor
A c section delivery vs normal delivery allows the doctor to avoid any complications that might arise during vaginal delivery, such as ● Having to deliver a very large baby in a mother with a small pelvis ● The baby being positioned in the breech presentation (feet or buttocks first, instead of head first) and efforts to realign has been unsuccessful. ● The mother suffers from a sexually transmitted disease, like active genital herpes or HIV, that could be passed on to the baby during vaginal delivery. ● A baby with a major birth defect ● Having a previous uterine operation, this risks rupturing the uterus during vaginal birth. ● Being pregnant with twins or multiples. Even though vaginal delivery is possible with twins, most are delivered by C-section, so that both babies and the mother can be closely monitored for their health. In case a mother is carrying triplets or larger groups of multiples, they are always born via C-section. ● If the baby is under distress due to low oxygen or if labor is happening too slowly.
Lower chance of injury to the Baby
If a woman has had a long labor or if the baby is large and delivered vaginally, there is a risk that the baby may suffer a bruised scalp or a fractured collarbone during the birth process. Most of us do not want to have a c section delivery vs normal delivery, but if the mother or the baby develops a complication during labor, then doing a C-section is inevitable. Some women may be more likely to need a C-section than others, for example, in case of preterm birth, a too-large baby, and conditions like breech presentation, placenta praevia (placenta very close to or covering the internal opening of the neck of the womb). As Dr. Deepika Aggarwal says, a safe mother and safe baby matter more than the mode of delivery!