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.