Vaginal birth vs. C-section: Which is better?
- The US National Library of Medicine states that the origins of the term ‘cesarean section’ are still disputed but that the procedure was initially intended “essentially to retrieve the infant from a dead or dying mother.” The first written account of a mother and child surviving the operation occurred around 1500 in Switzerland, where a sow gelder performed the procedure on his own wife.
- Statista reports that in 2019 the average price of a vaginal delivery at a US hospital was $7,500, while the cost of a C-section was $11,326.
- There are three types of vaginal delivery. ‘Spontaneous vaginal delivery’ happens on its own without the use of labor-inducing medications. ‘Induced vaginal delivery’ relies on drugs or other techniques to induce labor. And ‘assisted vaginal delivery’ utilizes forceps or a vacuum device to help the baby out of the vaginal canal.
- Most C-sections are done using regional anesthesia, such as an epidural, which numbs only the lower portion of the body and allows the mother to be awake during the procedure.
Gina (Vaginal Birth)
Vaginal delivery is safer and healthier than cesarean sections and, outside of the life-or-death situations that C-sections address, should be the preferred delivery method.
Unfortunately, requested C-sections have become more popular because of the convenience of choosing the time and date you want to deliver. However, although C-section deliveries may be “faster,” recovery time is much longer than vaginal deliveries. Cesarean sections are major abdominal surgeries that cut through muscles required for lifting and walking. Not only can you expect a more extended hospital stay with a C-section, but you will also need assistance in your daily household chores.
Further, C-sections involve many risks, such as infection, blood loss, reactions to anesthesia, blood clots, surgical injury, and increased potential for complications during future pregnancies.
Not only is vaginal birth easier on new mothers, but there are myriad benefits to babies. During the vaginal delivery process, specific essential bacteria that play a significant role in intestinal colonization and gut health are passed from mother to child. Without the initial establishment of this bacteria, a child can be subject to various inflammatory diseases such as asthma, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease.
Notably, the absence of gut bacteria has subsequent effects on the brain. A 2022 study found “Young adults born by C-section exhibit increased psychological vulnerability to acute stress and a prolonged period of exam-related stress.” Another study from Sweden found with cesarean deliveries a 33% increase in Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a higher risk for other neurological disorders, such as ADHD.
Although convenience is nice, its long-term ramifications may not be worth it. Both mothers and babies deserve the blessings that only vaginal birth can bring.
According to the CDC, 31.8% of all deliveries in 2020 were by cesarean section. This may come as a surprise to some, considering the negativity surrounding the delivery method. However, a C-section isn't necessarily an elective procedure for a laboring mom--it may be the only choice to save her or her baby's life.
Obstetricians may recommend C-sections for medical reasons such as carrying multiples, abnormal positioning, fetal distress, and placenta issues. This procedure also benefits mothers with chronic health conditions or infections that can pass to the baby during birth.
Aside from medical necessity, as an elective, a C-section allows expectant moms to overcome some of the cons of natural birth. In addition to controlling the delivery time, the procedure spares women from spending 12-24 hours in labor for first births or 8-10 hours for subsequent ones. C-section moms also won't have to go through physically grueling labor and delivery. Therefore, they're less likely to experience urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
Due to the above, women undergoing cesarean are likely to feel more at ease, which is especially important for those having overwhelming anxiety about natural birth. Stress during labor can lead to depressive symptoms, trait anxiety, and pain magnification.
Unfortunately, many myths tend to force women into choosing natural birth even when it's not a feasible option. However, so-called long-term beneficial effects on children's health have very limited evidence.
Finally, one thing to remember is that women have the agency to decide their own childbirth experiences. For the sake of their little bundles of joy, expectant mothers should consider what's best for their physical and mental health.