A cesarean section, or a C-section, is the surgical method of delivering babies. In a cesarean delivery, the baby is removed through incisions made in the pregnant patient’s abdomen wall and uterus.
In certain situations, a cesarean section is medically necessary to keep the mother and her baby healthy and safe. But if this isn’t the case, and it’s safe for the mother to deliver vaginally, this may be the preferable option due to the potential negative effects of a cesarean section.
Disadvantages of a cesarean section
There are always potential risks and complications to be aware of when thinking about C-sections.
- Recovery: Women who deliver by C-section tend to experience more difficult recoveries. Most women who deliver vaginally are able to go about their normal lives about 1-2 days after delivery. Women who deliver by C-section may need at least 2-3 weeks for recovery, and go home on narcotic pain medication.
- Future likelihood of C-section: Women who have had a C-section are more likely to need one in future pregnancies.
- Risks from surgery: There’s a risk of surgical injury and infection following the procedure. There’s also a risk of blood loss, blood clots, reactions to medications, or injury to her organs due to the surgery. These are generally treatable, but worth noting.
- Breathing troubles for the baby: Compared to babies who are delivered vaginally, babies delivered via cesarean have a harder time breathing once they’re born.
- The cost: It’s more expensive to give birth via cesarean section.
Why vaginal delivery might be preferable
Unless a C-section is medically necessary, vaginal delivery might be preferable for a number of reasons.
- Shorter recovery time
- Immediate skin-to-skin between mother and baby
- Less physical scarring
- Less risk of newborn breathing troubles
- More affordable than a C-section
The provider factor
Different providers have different philosophies and practices regarding cesarean sections. For example, studies have found that obstetricians tend to have higher C-section rates among their patients than do midwives. The provider that you choose might influence the possibility that you are recommended a C-section, so if you’re trying to avoid a C-section unless medically necessary, it might be a good idea to talk with your provider about their philosophy on cesarean sections.
The bottom line
Cesarean delivery is sometimes necessary to protect the health of a woman and her baby. If you don’t have a medical situation that makes vaginal delivery unsafe, there are many positive reasons to prioritize vaginal delivery.
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- Ashwin Ramachandrappa and Lucky Jain. “Elective Cesarean Section: It’s Impact on Neonatal Respiratory Outcome.” Clin Perinatol. 35(2): 373–vii. Web. Jun 2008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2453515/
- Maureen P Corry, MPH. “The Cost of Having a Baby in the United States.” MedScape. Childbirth Connection, May 2013. Web. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/803426_2
- LG Davis, et al. “Cesarean section rates in low-risk private patients managed by certified nurse-midwives and obstetricians.” J Nurse Midwifery. 39(2):91-7. Web. Mar-Apr 1994. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8027851