All You Need To Know About Natural Birth and C-Section
Giving birth to a new life is a beautiful phenomenon and there are two ways to do it — vaginal birth or a surgical delivery by Caesarean section. The ultimate goal, however, is to deliver a healthy baby.
Planned or Elective C-sections: Doctors may schedule a C-section if it’s considered the safer option compared to vaginal delivery for medical reasons such as pregnancy with multiples, a large baby, breech presentation (the baby is feet-first instead of head-first), previous C-section birth, or maternal medical issues like high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. It can also be scheduled in advance if a pregnant woman has an infection like HIV or genital herpes and is at risk of passing it to her baby during birth, or if there are complications with the placenta during pregnancy. A C-section may also be necessary in situations such as when a baby is very large, in proportion to a mother’s small pelvis, or if the baby is not in a heads-down position and efforts to turn the baby into this position before birth have been unsuccessful.
Emergency C-sections: Emergency C-sections become the solution for emergency situations where the health of the mother, baby or both are in jeopardy. In most cases, an unplanned C-section happens if the labour doesn’t progress normally, the foetus is in distress, or there’s other worrisome problems like placental abruption or a prolapsed umbilical cord. Today, about one-third of all babies are born through C-section where some surgeries are planned (elective) while others are done after labour has already begun (emergency).
During a vaginal birth, the mother will experience labour as her cervix dilates by centimetres, during which she will also experience uterine contractions which feel like super-strong menstrual cramps. The baby’s head will move toward the vaginal opening and emerge after pushing. Painkillers like an epidural are offered before the birthing begins, but some women opt to go medication-free. Your little one will be in your arms moments after the birth. Labour and delivery can last 12 to 14 hours for first-time moms, and it’s usually quicker for subsequent births.
A C-section operation, on the other hand, is a relatively longer procedure which usually takes about 45 minutes from start to finish (the baby is born in the first 10 to 15 minutes). The majority of C-sections are performed while the mother is awake, and she usually receives either an epidural or a spinal block to numb the lower half of the body. The mother won’t be able to feel a thing due to the painkillers, although there might be some pressure during your C-section and a tugging sensation when the baby is pulled out. The incision is made just above your bikini line and into the wall of the abdomen while another incision is made in the wall of the uterus which creates a passageway for the baby to be delivered. Then, doctors cut the umbilical cord, remove the placenta, and close the incision. A screen so the actual surgery won’t be seen but barring any complications, you'll be able to hear your baby as soon as they're born and hold them soon afterward.
Risks and Complications
In a natural birth, it’s common to suffer from perineal tears or go through an episiotomy — a cut made to enlarge the vaginal opening. These complications often require stitches and can cause significant pain. There could be issues with bladder control post-birth and so is pelvic organ prolapse. The silver lining of a vaginal birth An upside of vaginal birth is that babies are exposed to good bacterias in the birth canal that boosts their immune systems. What’s more, mothers might be able to hold and breastfeed their baby sooner with vaginal births, which improves the early bonding experience.
A Cesarean is a surgical procedure and come with risks which include infections of the uterine lining and incision, excessive bleeding or haemorrhage, injury to the bladder or bowel during surgery, negative reactions to anaesthesia and blood clots like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism. Women who’ve had prior C-sections also risk uterine rupture (their C-section incision rips open), which can cause life-threatening bleeding. Placenta previa, the scientific term of placenta partially or entirely covering the cervix and placenta accreta, where the placenta implants into the uterine muscle instead of the lining are also more common in subsequent C-sections, according to David Colombo, M.D., the Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Spectrum Health. Don’t let this information scare you because C-section complications are rare, and the surgery is considered generally safe. While C-section risks to the baby are minimal, they sometimes develop respiratory issues, especially if they’re born before 39 weeks. It’s quite a rare occurrence for a baby to be injured during a C-section surgery and they sometimes have temporarily low Apgar scores (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration).
Advantages and disadvantages
Birth is a normal, physiological process, hence, the recovery and hospital stay is typically shorter than a C-section — a new mom can go home in 24 to 48 hours. For a C-section, the stay can be up to four days. During the vaginal delivery process, the skin and tissues around the vagina would stretch and tear as the baby moves down through the birth canal, after which, she may need stitches. Without stitches, the tearing can negatively affect urine and bowel function which happens more frequently after vaginal birth. New moms might also experience some pain in the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus).
An advantage of a C-section is that the birth can be scheduled ahead of time, allowing control, and the absence of tearing in the perineum and vagina. After the first C-section, the likelihood of a repeat C-section for the next pregnancy will need to be discussed with the health care provider. Some moms attempt a vaginal delivery with their subsequent pregnancies which is called a Trial of Labour after Cesarean.
The recovery time after a Cesarean is longer, and there’s a greater discomfort due to the expected surgical pain along the incision and abdominal soreness which can last several months. New mothers need to pay great care to their incision to avoid the risk of rupturing the C-section scar during subsequent deliveries and pregnancies. There is also an increased risk for placental abnormalities. Another risk undergoing C-section include blood loss, infection, injury to the bowels or bladder and blood clots. The risk of death associated with blood clots, infections and complications from anaesthesia is three times greater with a C-section when compared to a vaginal delivery.
Effects on the baby
For natural birth, both mom and baby can experience immediate skin to skin contact and breastfeeding typically starts sooner after delivery than with a C-section. A woman’s body is meant to give birth naturally, barring any complications, of course. A vaginal birth can help squeeze fluid out of the baby’s lungs and reduce the risk of breathing problems for the baby. It’s also during vaginal birth that the baby receives a dose of good bacteria which boosts the baby’s immune system and protects their intestinal tract. A potential but infrequent disadvantage of natural birth is that the baby (especially if large) may experience injury such as temporary bruising to the head or a fractured collarbone during delivery.
Unfortunately, C-section is associated with an increased risk of stillbirth, along with the risk for breathing problems, such as asthma, is higher which continues from infancy into childhood. In addition, research has found a possible link between C-section birth and the risk for childhood and adult obesity — a result of higher incidence of C-section among moms who are obese or have gestational diabetes.
Recovery and Healing
Recovery time varies from person to person, because different moms experience different levels of post-operative soreness. Most women stay in the hospital for 24-48 hours after a vaginal birth. Common postpartum side effects include vaginal bleeding, cramping, swelling, soreness, and more. It’s important to take it easy and rest the best you can for at least a few weeks after vaginal delivery.
If you have a C-section, the post-op effects tend to be more severe — nausea and weakness during the first day and actions like coughing, sneezing, and laughing may cause pain. After a day or so, you'll be encouraged to get up and start moving around, which is important to prevent fluid build-up in your lungs, to boost circulation, and aid digestion. Depending on your recovery, you’ll be discharged home 3-4 days, after your doctor removes your stitches (sutures will dissolve on their own). You'll be sent home with a prescription for pain medication, and you should spend the next few weeks focusing on resting and wound care. The pain will linger but eventually, in about a month or six weeks time, you’d feel more like yourself again.
Postnatal care with VCO
Virgin coconut oil can come pretty handy for pre- and postnatal care, especially to prevent stretch marks and itchy skin that seem to grow with your belly. It can also balance blood sugar, controls diabetes and helps combat morning sickness. For mamas who breastfeed, apply some coconut oil to your nipples when they’re cracked and painful as a moisturiser. Eating a few tablespoons of virgin coconut oil each day can increase your milk flow.