The great debate among pregnant women revolves around the big day when the baby arrives. Moms-to-be worry about every decision, from the location at the home or the hospital to the doctor or midwife and whether or not to use pain meds. But the biggest issue that stresses out the mom is when the idea of a C-section comes up.
About one in three babies delivered in the US are born via C-section, and while that number is higher than the global rate, there are a lot of reasons why surgery might be a safer option for a mom and a baby. There can be drawbacks, but there are risks and benefits to natural delivery as well. Sometimes those dangers get forgotten in the debate, but babies can have health risks no matter how they are born, and the situation can be precarious for moms either way as well.
The C-section versus natural birth debate needs to happen between a mom-to-be and her doctor, and each case is different. Sometimes moms don't feel like they have enough information, so this guide might help. And remember, there is no guilt in either birth choice, as long as the mom's and the baby's health are considered carefully.
Here are 20 thinks doctors don't tell soon-to-be moms about C-section versus natural birth.
20 Not The Easy Way Out
With the current birth debate, some women go too far when they compare C-sections and natural births. They tend to think that one or the other is easier. But natural doesn't mean easier, and neither does surgery.
There are difficult parts to both types of delivery. For natural birth, the labor can be long and painful, and the actual delivery can be very difficult on the mom. For a C-section, the recovery can be harder. This part of the birth debate just doesn't make sense, as it all depends on the situation and the person, and one type of delivery could be harder for one family than another.
19 C-Sections Save Lives
Celebrities who were dubbed "too posh to push" gave C-sections a bad reputation, as some natural birth advocates worried that moms and doctors were turning to the surgery out of convenience. But elective C-sections are a small percentage of births. For the most part, the surgeries occur for medically necessary reasons.
Cesareans date back centuries, when people tried to save the baby when the mother died during childbirth. The surgery was later improved to give the mom and the baby a chance. Time Magazine quoted Save the Children as saying that the day of a baby's birth is the most dangerous day of childhood across the world, but in developed countries, C-sections save lives.
18 It Can Be Harder To Breastfeed After A C-Section
The way that a mom gives birth might impact the way that she feeds her newborn. That's because a C-section makes it harder to breastfeed during the first hour of life, which is known as "the golden hour" because it can help set up the mom and baby for nursing success.
A newborn has a natural instinct for a latch in the first hour of life, and he is more alert. Plus, the early nursing sessions can prompt a mom's milk to come in sooner. But the mom might be delayed with a C-section, and the baby might be more groggy. It's still possible to find success, but moms might have a rougher beginning, according to Natural Birth and Baby Care.
17 Things Can Fall Out After Natural Delivery
Yes, it's true that surgery is hard on the body, but so is a natural delivery. In fact, moms might have issues with their organs falling out of their bodies in the weeks after birth, even when things progress naturally.
The most likely thing to happen is called uterine prolapse, and it happens when the uterus falls into the cervix. The other organs in the pelvis can also fall down into the area down below, which makes things uncomfortable and even painful. Even if a mom avoided surgery to give birth, she might need to go into the operating room to correct the issues with the organs.
16 Both Can Require Stitches
A lot of women think of C-sections when they think of having to get stitches after giving birth. But either type of delivery can require some repair, so women might need to be sewn up either way.
A good majority of women who go through natural births end up having some tearing to their area down below. While episiotomies aren't done as often these days, the skin often stretches to the point of breaking, and it can be pretty severe. Women have to be careful to take care of their stitches after the birth, which is a little harder for natural birth mamas but the scar is more of an issue for C-section moms.
15 Fertility Might Diminish After A C-Section
A lot of women's don't think about their next pregnancy when they choose to have a C-section. They might know that the possibility of a C-section is there, but doctors don't mention that they might end up having fertility issues after a C-section.
That's because of the possibility of scarring and damage to the uterus that can come during surgery, according to Natural Birth and Baby Care. There is a possibility of endometriosis, which might require another surgery to repair. Fertility issues can be really frustrating, although medical breakthroughs give parents new hope these days. But it can take time and money and be really hard on a family.
14 A Breech Birth Is Risky
There are times when the doctor will suggest a C-section ahead of time but natural birth advocates question the need. Probably to most common is when the baby is breech, but moms need to understand the real risks of a natural delivery in those situations.
It's not just about tearing, although that can be really severe when the baby goes through bottom first. There is also a strong possibility of a birth injury, including brain damage if the baby is deprived of oxygen through cord compression or getting stuck. Many doctors don't believe the risk is worth it, so moms should carefully consider a C-section if the baby doesn't turn.
13 VBACS Usually Don't Work
A drawback of having a C-section is that subsequent deliveries are more likely to have to be surgical as well. While more doctors consider letting women try for a VBAC the next time, the truth is that most of the time it just doesn't happen.
Often times the same factors are present for a mom the second time around, and her body has the added stress of more age and a scar that might open up, according to Live Science. If the mom and baby are healthy, then it's possible to try for a natural delivery, but moms need to know that most women end up back in the operating room and include that in their VBAC plan.
12 Planned C-Sections Can Become Emergencies
A lot of women think that planning for a C-section can help them control the situation more and be able to know the date of the baby's birth ahead of time. That means that moms can plan for childcare for older siblings and make sure that family and friends are in town for the arrival.
But the truth is that even moms who plan C-sections can have things go differently than they thought. For one, if they go into labor before the scheduled date, their surgery will be moved up and become an emergency. Other things can change the plans as well, including complications for the mom or baby.
11 Baby Size Estimates Can Be Way Off
There are several reasons that a doctor might recommend a C-section, either before labor begins or during it. One of the most problematic is when it is based on the size of the baby. There are some people that struggle with pushing the baby out due to a large baby with a mom with a smaller pelvis.
While ultrasounds can be really useful for finding out information about the baby, they aren't always great at estimating the baby's size. Many times, the estimates can be off by a pound or more in either direction. It's hard to judge if the baby is too big for a natural delivery.
10 Babies Can Get Hurt During Natural Delivery
The baby might get nicked by a scalpel during a C-section, but the possibility of a birth injury is much greater during a natural delivery. The harm could be minor such as bruising, but there is a range of other issues that could happen, the most severe being brain damage or worse from oxygen deprivation, according to epainassist.com.
Babies could get hip dysplasia that can make it hard to walk or shoulder dystocia that can cause them to be unable to use an arm or hand. Using a vacuum or forceps also can cause severe injuries. Natural birth can be really hard on the baby, and the consequences can be severe.
9 C-Section Babies May Struggle To Breathe
Right after the birth, a C-section baby is more likely to struggle to breathe, according to Natural Birth Baby and Care. There are several reasons for that, including the fact that some C-sections are performed because the baby was already struggling with his heart rate or had a health complication.
In addition, doctors believe that the process of labor helps the baby to get fluid out of his lungs, and that is skipped with a C-section. The baby might need some help to breathe in the beginning and might need to go to the NICU, but often the baby will get the hang of it pretty soon.
8 Incontinence Can Happen With Both
When a woman gets pregnant, she might have an issue with bladder leakage. It can happen due to the hormones as well as because of the pressure of the baby on the bladder. Moms might expect that to get better after the birth, but there is a possibility of incontinence no matter how she delivers the baby.
For C-section moms, it could happen because of damage to the organs. That damage can happen with natural birth, too, causing moms to have problems for weeks or even years later. Incontinence can be inconvenient and embarrassing, but it's a risk that comes with having a baby.
7 Clot Risks Happen With C-Sections
When a woman has surgery, any surgery, there is a risk of clotting. That's because it's natural for the body to try to clot any cut, but if a clot forms and breaks off, it can be very dangerous.
A clot in the legs or pelvic area can be painful and can block off flow to the area. It becomes an even bigger emergency if the clot travels to the lungs, which can cause a pulmonary embolism, the leading cause of demise among pregnant women in developing countries, according to Healthline. Doctors have to be on the alert for symptoms so moms can get treated right away.
6 Endorphins Help With Recovery After Natural Delivery
There are trade-offs between having a natural delivery and a C-section. The part before the delivery is definitely harder for a woman who does things naturally since the body prepares for birth with contractions that a woman who has a C-section can skip. But the recovery is much easier.
The birthing process involves a lot of hormone changes, and moms experience most of them no matter how they deliver. But a natural birth is similar to exercise in that it releases endorphins, which naturally boost the mood and give moms energy. Some women are on their feet and going strong just a few hours after giving birth naturally, while it can take days for a C-section mom to feel better.
5 Asthma Possibilities For C-Section Babies
Many moms think that the way that the baby is delivered only has consequences at the beginning of life, but there are studies that show a wide variety of diseases later in the child's life are more likely for those born via C-section. While there are a lot of factors, babies born via C-section are 20 percent more likely to develop asthma than those born naturally.
Some believe that the issues might evolve because the baby doesn't go through the birth canal, which can prime the baby's immune system with a number of natural bacteria. Some birth advocates support "seeding" the baby with mom's secretions, but there isn't evidence yet that could stave off asthma.
4 The Risks Of Complications In Future Pregnancies After C-Sections
A C-section means that a mom's organs are cut, which can mean that they are more likely to have issues in the future. That could mean that a future pregnancy could have complications that weren't necessarily there in the first birth.
Many women know about the possibility of uterine rupture, but they didn't know that they are more likely to have issues with their placenta. That might mean that it covers the cervix, which could lead to bleeding and could mean that the baby's nutrient supply is a problem, according to Healthline. Those issues come with a lot of risks, including the possibility of needing a C-section delivery again.
3 Pelvic Floor Problems After Natural Birth
The pelvic floor muscles are a complex network of muscles that work together to keep the middle of the body in shape and keeps the organs in place. The abdominals are part of the core, but the muscles of the pelvic floor are also a very important part of it.
These muscles are the ones that are engaged during Kegel exercises, but they get lax and stretched, sometimes bruised during a natural birth. That can cause persistent back issues as well as prolapsed organs, both of which could last for years and dramatically impact a mom's quality of life. They might even require surgery to repair them.
2 Natural Births For Twins Are Risky
One of the reasons for the increase in C-section rates in recent years is because there has been a similar rise in the number of multiple births. While some moms are able to give birth to twins naturally, there are some big risks that cause doctors to recommend a surgical option.
Twins—and even more so for higher order multiples—are much more likely to have an issue with at least one baby being breech. Sometimes the second baby turns even if they are both head-down before labor begins. Also, there is the possibility of cord prolapse or getting tangled up, which could mean that a baby is deprived of oxygen.
1 Postpartum Depression Is More Possible After C-Section
Giving birth is an exciting but traumatic experience for a woman. And with the rush of hormones that come after the delivery, some new moms can struggle with postpartum depression. According to statistics, though, it's more likely to be tough on a C-section mom.
That might be because of the stigma these days around the procedure. Many women feel unsuccessful in their birth if they had to go through surgery, which can exacerbate the problems and stress that come with new motherhood. C-section and natural deliveries have their own risks and rewards, and mom shouldn't feel ashamed in either decision.