Which is better, Vaginal delivery or C-section?

by beagoodmom on October 31, 2007

Having had both a vaginal birth and a C-section I am in the position to be able to decide which is better and less painful. So, in the interest of science, I am going to call it, so that all the world will know. Ready?

If you are afraid of labor, then maybe you think you would prefer a C-section. Labor is nerve-wracking. I had an epidural both times, so the pain was manageable, but the length of time it takes and the fear of the unknown is stressful.

If you plan on an epidural, then labor is not so bad. Sure, the contractions hurt. And they come every 30 seconds or so at the end. And the epidural hurts for a minute. But during the actual pushing out of the baby, all you feel is pressure and tingling. How serious of a pain this is, depends on your personal pain threshold. Episiotomies are great, because they prevent tearing. And if you can get thru it without developing hemorrhoids, that is all the better for your recovery.

C-sections do not (DO NOT) eliminate the pain of delivery. They often do not eliminate the pain of labor either. I went thru labor and then still had an emergency C-Section. During a C-section (local anesthetic) you will feel tremendous pressure and tugging and the Dr. cuts thru 3 or 4 layers of your innards to get to the baby. It hurts. In my opinion, more than a vaginal birth.

Most importantly, after a C-section you are looking at weeks and weeks of recovery time. I am one week post-delivery and I do not think I will be 100% for a long time; I am probably 25% right now. With a vaginal birth, I would have been 80% recovered by this point.

So, for me, vaginal is the way to go. I think its less pain up front, but even if it was not, I would rather have more pain during the labor and delivery and a shorter recovery time.

According to one of the nurses I met at the hospital, C-sections are more and more common and I was in the majority among the my peers in the Mother Baby Unit that day. According to this article, voluntary C-sections are increasing. While this number includes those who do not attempt vaginal after a C-section (the VBAC), it still includes those who elect a C-section for their first delivery when not medically indicated. I don’t know any thing about the VBAC, but did read that it is not as risky as woman perceive it to be.

During one of my days at the hospital, a different OB from my medical group came by to check on me. He looked at my charts and noticed that I had delivered the twins vaginally. I said yes, and I was happier with my recovery then than I was now. He said that if he had been the one to deliver me then, he would have “done a C-section.” (not “recommended a C-section”) Bold statement, since its ultimately my decision whether to try for a vaginal or not. But, to be honest, if the Dr. had recommended a C back then, I probably would have said yes, out of ignorance. But now, I know better. I have read that vaginal births result in lower infant mortality, shorter recovery time, less chance of complications and infections. If the pain during delivery is greater for vaginal then C-section, so what. To be honest, I have forgot all about the pain of labor and delivery….but I am very aware of the pain in my abdomen today. Everyone is different, but I believe that if I had delivered vaginally, I would have less pain today.

So, the answer to my question is: Unless you have a medical reason for needing a C-section, I would say go for the vaginal. Its easier in the long run.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Aunt Bean October 31, 2007 at 12:21 pm

VBac is also not an option for all. You ,may not have been given the choice being that you are large uterused. I was told – and had it confirmed with Belaina – that my U was so thin around my old incision that the increased stress from labor on the incision may have caused it to spontaneously rupture and tear, resulting in a probable hysterectomy(sp?) I am just not that ready for menopause, so away we went! I am glad you confirmed that pain and discomfort is present with a C, because many V-moms think we are taking the “easy” way out. Good comparison and contrast paper! (oops, post…can’t shake the teacher out can you?!?)

Sherry October 31, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Thanks for all of you insiders info, BAGM! Its of no help to me now that my tubes are tied, but thanks anyways! :)
I had hours and hours of labor and then an emergency C with my son (almost 7 years ago). They think it was due to my tilted uterus. My doctor said another C would be best with my daughter (10 months ago). I agreed and went for it. So I have no experience with vaginal births. I do agree the recovery is not fun after Cs though. And if it was less with a vaginal I would probably go for that so that I could enjoy and take care of my baby more easily.
Of course I have had WAYYY more than my share of recovering since my daughter was born…
I was informed never to get pregnant again after my daughter because of how they had to cut my uterus to get her out. But! Before I could get my tubes tied (you have to wait 30 days in the US) I had an ectopic pregnancy which burst my tube and made me bleed internally. Surgery. Got that fixed. Went back to have my remaining my tube tied after my 30 day wait… all went well… was home 15 minutes and started bleeding internally from the surgery. Back to the hosp where they opened up my C scar once again to fix the bleeding, which they never found.
No fun.

Sherry October 31, 2007 at 2:47 pm

LOL Sorry for the book…. and sorry if this is TMI!!

Ruthie November 1, 2007 at 2:46 am

I totally agree. I’d choose vaginal over C-section any day. I’m still having issues with my incision from having the twins. Lots of scar tissue on the inside has been causing some pretty bad pain at times. Also, my incision right afterwards was draining fluid, so I had to pack a small hole with gauze for a couple of weeks. Not fun at all.

J November 1, 2007 at 6:54 pm

Have a coworker friend who has been having stomach pain/abdominal cramps. She was eating M0trin/Maal0x like crazy for several years. Docs narrowed it down to possible endometriosis; surgery indicated. Endo? NOPE! They opened her up and found c-sec scar adhesions from her c-sec 8 years ago had attached to various parts within her stomach. Yowza. C-sections are a big deal. You can’t be so cavalier about them, I’ve learned from this. It’s surgery, plain and simple. This is a risk I might not take. There’s so much to weigh when going into a pregnancy, including the exit strategy.

m'leigh November 3, 2007 at 10:43 pm

I don’t think C-section should be an option unless recommended by your doctor, , C-sections are for people who can’t have a natural vaginal birth or for those who have complications with delivery, not for people that think they need to fit having their baby into their busy schedules, C-section is not the easy way out as many would think, it’s a surgery that takes at least 6 weeks for recovery if there are no complications, let your baby be born when he/she was meant to be born. I’m all for the drugs take as many as you can, but at least once you’ve delivered your baby your up and walking around in no time instead of being pushed around in a wheel chair with a catheter. You probably think i’m one of those women who had an easy delivery but i’m not, it was very long and excruciating but I would take it over a C-section any day. Sorry it’s a topic that frustrates me.

leelee May 9, 2008 at 8:01 am

I have been told by my Dr. that I will have to have a c-section due to the baby being in a horizontal position. This is a big dissapointment to me. I have never given birth, but am sick of people making comments about how I won’t have to deal with things that happen in Labor. I don’t know what to say-I am totally in shock that anyone would take major surgery so lightly! I have read about the weeks of recovery from the c-section and like Sherry I would take cmore pain up front so that I wouldn’t miss out on the time with my daughter trying to recover.

Natasha July 27, 2008 at 9:47 am

I’m 29 weeks and have active Crohn’s disease of the colon, for which I’ve had surgery. I’ve been told by two gastroenterologists and one obstetrician that I should have a C-section. I also have a history of emergency C-sections in the family.
Of course I’m worried about scarring, infection, and other surgical complications and most of all the recovery time, but I’m still not sure what the right decision is.
Having a vaginal birth is very likely to further complicate Crohn’s and cause the need for surgery after birth (for which I cannot be insured) but part of me wonders whether it will be better to recover from C-section or vaginal delivery PLUS intestinal surgery.
Anyone have experience in this area?

beagoodmom July 27, 2008 at 3:35 pm

That is a good question. I don’t have any experience with Crohns, but I can tell you one thing my OB told me…..she remind me that a C-section IS abdominal surgery. So, either way, it sounds like you are facing surgery. I am a firm believer in taking an expert’s advice. If those doctors told you to do a C-section, then its probably best. The recovery is tough, but alot of parenthood is tough! Haha. Get a few things to help with your recovery and just muscle through. Those things are (in my opinion): A firm chair with arms. You will not want to sit in a mooshy chair after delivery, they are hard to get out of. A binder to support your waist. The hospital will probably send you home with one. Extra pillows, so you can sleep partially sitting up. Someone to help you with housework and some baby care. Good Luck. Going thru a pregancy and delivery while managing another medical condition must be hard. But the fact that you are investigating all your options and talking it through already shows that you are a level-headed person , so I am sure that you will make the right decision.

Tori September 25, 2008 at 6:14 pm

This brings up a lot of really interesting points. I am not a mom yet, but when I do get pregnant I am going to do everything I can to have not only a vaginal birth, but a natural home birth. There’s a really interesting documentary that was made by Ricki Lake a little while back called The Business of Being Born. It’s really an amazing look at the birthing process in the U.S. and how women have become afraid of the beautiful process that birth can be.

LeAnn June 10, 2009 at 5:28 pm

“Episiotomies are great, because they prevent tearing”
Wow. I thought the damage that an episiotomy creates was common knowledge? http://www.efn.org/~djz/birth/obmyth/epis.html

beagoodmom June 11, 2009 at 9:29 am

Thanks for the link, but my episotomy was not routine. It was deemed necessary in order to get my 2 Seven pound twins out safely. The decision was made after I was unable to deliver the first baby, probably because my enormous size prevented alot of good angles for pushing, eventhough I tried and tried. I am thankful I was given the opportunity to deliver them vaginally. Many doctors would have said a C-section was necessary right off the bat. Having an episotomy when it became clear that they were not coming out smoothly, was still a great outcome, rather than a C-section just because they were twins. They cut and I pushed harder and out the twins came. Nothing is as simple as your link makes it seem. That’s why its impoirtant to have a doctor you trust.

Kat April 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm

I just wanted to put my 2 cents worth in about vaginal delivery. I had two female abdominal surgeries one of which was a uterine suspension. The incision was almost the size of a c-section one and he cut ligiments, etc. It was a very painful recovery, so I was relieved to find out I could have my son vaginally. HOWEVER….after my vaginal delivery with my son, I have never been in so much pain in my life. Not the labor, which I did 16 of the 22 hours of it w/o epidural, so I am not wimpy. My son’s health was believed to be in danger, so they finally used forceps on me to get him out. I’m greatful because he is healthy, but for me the next few months were a nightmare. I had a 4th degree tear, which caused a pain I can’t describe. I could hardly walk to the bathroom and could not sit up or sit completely on my behind for weeks. The tear also included part of my anus/anal muscles and it took me 4 months before I could hold my feces/gas. It was extremely depressing for a new mom, especially when you’re only 34 and afraid to leave the house w/o depends or afraid to eat anything in case you have gas because there is no muscle function. This isn’t to scare anyone, but through a support group I have found a group of women who have had my experience and then went on to have c-section with subsequent pregnancies. Most say the c-section was better. While a more painful recovery in some ways, less so in other ways and much less damaging in the long run. Some of those ladies weren’t as lucky as me and did not regain control and heal as well as me and had to go to a colorectal specialist for corrective surgery, some of which can only improve function, not return it totally. I am now about 15 weeks PG and have been offered a c-section. I’m hoping the c-section pain is similar to the other surgery I had because it was a lot better to me than the horrible tear. Sorry so long, I just see so many posts with people who insist that vaginal will be a better recovery, and you may find as in my case, there are many times that just isn’t so.

Emily May 5, 2010 at 6:54 pm

I completely agree with Kat. Having a difficult vaginal birth, can leave you in pain for a VERY long time. I did not have medication when I delivered my second daughter who ended up with shoulder dystocia. It was very traumatizing psychologically as well as physically. The manuever they used to get her out cracked my pelvis and I had 4th degree tears that made it EXTREMELY painful to use the bathroom for months ( I won’t even go into the many details about the damage). I left the hospital with a walker and and a need for PT. I would never minimize the risks or difficulty or of a c-section, but I am tired of hearing how much “worse” c-sections are…this is not always the case!!
Kat, I wish I had a support group to go to, glad you found one! I am pregnant with #3 and trying to decide if I should risk hell again or just go with the surgery!!

twinsplusone August 13, 2010 at 6:59 am

I had a C-section with my twins b/c they were transverse, and am opting not to do a VBAC this go round. My c-section was simple, possibly b/c it was planned and not an emergency one. I’ve noticed that is sometimes the difference in people’s experiences. My recovery was no big deal. I’d personally rather have stomach pain than crotch pain..lol.

tiffany January 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I go Wednesday to be induced and I’m having twins this has helped a lot.

Ally March 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm

I am having a planned C-section due to Placenta Previa..I am sad about this but there is nothing I can do about it. My daughter was born vaginally no complications other than my perineum being very sore for several years from the episiotomy. This time its a c-section and I am nervous about the recovery and hope it goes smoothly or at least the pain is managed well. My last pregnancy I suffered from a clogged breast (mastitis) and that pain was far worse than delivery! I think all motherhood comes with pain but is eased by Joy with the babies first smile:)

Lily Flockhart July 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I’m pretty sure I was born in the wrong decade but stuff like this makes it bearable.

dyann September 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I jus gave birth four days ago and had da epidural and episotomy (21stitches!) The first two days felt like i would be handicap forever:( but ive regained alot of strength.i take medication for the pain but nothing can explain wat those stitches still burn like! Alot of bleeding has subsided but the fluids i leak jus make it hard to walk apart from all the bodily swelling:( but im glad to hear that my recovery is something that will be shorter than a c-sec…i was beginning to lose hope!

beagoodmom December 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm

To a reader who sent me the following email:

I’m going in to have my baby on Dec. 15th, Thursday, which is
tomorrow… i had decided on having a c-section and this is my first
child…but i am stuck now on what to do. should i do vaginal or
c-section. i started out wanting to do a c-section instead of vaginal
because i didn’t want to tear or be cut and mainly for sexual
reasons…i feel if i have a vaginal birth then my boyfriend wouldn’t
be attracted to me anymore sexually because he said it isn’t the same
once a baby is delivered vaginally…im so confused and dont have a
clue which route to take….and i only have a few hours to
decide…please help me out…please

My answer is this…the decision to have a C-section on your first baby should never be up to you. The American Medical Assoc/ OBGyne says a vaginal is always better unless there is a medical reason to do a C-section. Your doctor will advise you if a C-section is necessary.

Its not your boyfriends decision either. He really has no right to even say something so unfair and selfish. Yes, pregnancy and childbirth and parenthood will change your body and your mind. No lie. He’s just going to have to deal with it. Your vagina is actually the least of the issues. If its a real concern for him, then I am afraid you will be raising 2 children from now on.

Go in tomorrow for your big day and just relax as much as you can. Trust the doctors and nurses. Listen to them, know that at the end of the experience…you get to take home a baby! No matter how the baby gets out…its awesome. And the pain goes away. And the fear goes away. And what you are left with is a beautiful baby.

Kathy W. March 30, 2012 at 4:05 am

I disagree with some of the posters above. I’m going to be a new mom, my first child, and in NO WAY will I get a natural birth. I won’t. Ever. I will have a c-section and this is completely my decision. No matter what people say, natural birth WILL loosen you up down there. And no matter how many kegel exercises you do, you will never be the same as you were before. And the loss of pleasure for both of us. A c-section might take longer to recover, but at least it’s much easier for the scarring to fade (you can get chemical peels, laser surgery to reduce the c-section scar).

beagoodmom April 1, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Please come back in a year and tell us if your priorities have changed. I would be interested to hear. Thanks for your comment.

claire October 9, 2012 at 12:30 am

I think the comment above by kathy was immature and just plain ole rude. I had to have an emergency csection with my first born and it was a very traumatic experience! The recovery was awful, I was in pain for 3 months afterwards and then for the other 9 months postpartum I was very tender and itchy near my inciscion. Everyonce in awhile I’d get a bad pain in my abdomen. I am now pregnant with my second and there will be a 25mo gap between siblings. I am going for a vbac and am very excited to be a candidate for a trial of labor! Ultimately I will be very pleased with myself if I am able to deliver vaginally and being “loose” is the least of my concerns…especially when raising a new baby! Heck who has time for sex with a newborn?? Lol

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