Pregnancy is an exciting time, and often comes with expectations and thoughts as to how we would like to bring our baby into this world. Some women feel dead set on vaginal birth, whereas others feel that a C-section would be better suited to them. Either way, the main goal is to bring your baby into this world safely, while making sure you get the best, and safest experience possible. Both birthing methods differ greatly, especially considering that one is a major surgery (C-section). Therefore, both vaginal birth and C-sections come with their pro’s and con’s. Here, the most important pros and cons of both birthing methods are discussed, which includes what to expect from each of them during, and after birth.
The fact that your vagina stretches to the size of a small watermelon during birth is enough to make anyone feel slightly ill. This, coupled with the likelihood of an episiotomy (an incision to the perineum to enlarge the vaginal orifice in the second stage of labour) conjures up the perception that vaginal birth could be an extremely painful (but incredible) experience.
Since vaginal birth is programmed by our bodies, it makes sense that our bodies would recover better, right? Yup! Here’s are the pros and cons of vaginal birth, as well as what you can most likely expect during this journey:
- Rapid postpartum recovery process
- Early start to the mother-infant relationship
- Decreased occurrence of infection
- Infant ingestion of bacteria that contributes to gut health and boosts immunity
- Avoid major surgery and the associated risks
- Fluid is forced out of the fetus’ lungs from the pressure of vaginal birth
- Labor and vaginal delivery is a long and physically grueling process
- Perineal trauma and possible persistent pain
- More likely to experience urinary incontinence
- Vaginal stretching/tearing as the fetus moves through the birth canal
You can expect the labor pains to be intense, but if it’s a major concern for you, remember that you can explore several pain management strategies that include non‐pharmacological interventions (that aim to help women cope with pain in labour) and pharmacological interventions (that aim to relieve the pain of labour).
Another major concern is that things may not be quite the same ‘down there’. A recent study found that 38% of women indicated some interference with sexual enjoyment due to genital changes after childbirth. These include concerns over a feeling of ‘looseness’ as well as changes in the look of their labia. If you’re wondering how to tighten your vagina, and you feel as though you fall into one/both of these categories, there are procedures available that can address both these concerns. Labiaplasty, for one, is a procedure that essentially ‘trims’ the labia, and is increasingly popular due to the exceptional results that are observed in forming a contoured, even appearance.
There are many reasons why your OB-GYN would recommend a C-section, and at the end of the day, these reasons ensure the best outcome for both you and your baby. It is major surgery, so you can expect extended recovery times, extended wound care, and decreased mobility. C-sections however, also offer some benefits as well:
- Overwhelming anxiety about a vaginal birth would be circumvented by undergoing a C-section
- Less likely to suffer from urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse
- Can be scheduled in advance, making it more convenient than a vaginal birth and labor
- Increased chance of post-delivery ailments such as infections and longer-lasting soreness
- Longer hospital stays
- Increased risk of blood loss
- Less likely to begin early breastfeeding
- The risk for placental problems increases with every C-section
- Babies born by C-section were found to be more likely to experience breathing problems at birth and even during childhood.
If your first delivery is through a C-section and you were hoping to give birth vaginally, there’s still a chance for you to experience vaginal birth in your second pregnancy. Vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) was found to be successful in 70% of women in the U.S. who attempted a trial of labor after one previous cesarean. So, no matter which birthing method you choose to experience, do your homework and maintain a close and open relationship with your OB-GYN to ensure that the recommended procedure has the best interests of both you and your baby in mind.
Dr. Gina Leisching is a medical scientist with a PhD in Physiology. Her interests encompass human health in general, specifically pathophysiological and disease conditions. Her expertise focuses on cervical cancer, infectious diseases and immunology and the molecular mechanisms underpinning these processes. Her current goal and passion is elucidating the mechanism by which tuberculosis disease persists in humans and finding therapies that have minimal effects on the patient. She is also a wife, and mother to two beautiful children that she’s very proud of.