Vaginal Birth vs. C-Section: What You Should Know

As your due date gets closer, you may be wondering whether you will end up having a vaginal birth or a C-section and what the differences between the two may be. During your labor and sometimes even prior to it, your doctor will help determine which method will likely be the safest way to deliver your baby. While both can be a great experience with different benefits, they each come with their difficulties as well.

Vaginal Birth

A vaginal delivery is the most common way to give birth and generally occurs when there are no complications that may put the mother or baby at risk. During a vaginal birth, the mother will go through labor until she is fully dilated at 10 centimeters. The baby will then make its way through the birth canal towards the opening of your vagina. At this point, your doctor or midwife will likely have you start pushing during each contraction. Your baby’s head will slowly begin to crown, and eventually its body will completely emerge.


Recovery: Mothers who deliver vaginally typically have a quicker recovery and shorter hospital stay than those who have had a C-section. Women are usually required to stay in the hospital 24 to 48 hours after giving birth vaginally, but in some circumstances may be able to leave sooner.

No Surgery: There are certain risks and effects that come from having surgery. If you deliver vaginally, you can avoid infections, scarring and pain that may come from having a C-section. In addition, you won’t have to be under anesthesia, meaning you can be more mentally and physically present when your baby is born. This may allow you to hold and breastfeed your baby soon after delivery.


Labor: Unfortunately, labor can often last a long time, especially if you are giving birth to your first child. This can be exhausting, and if you choose not to have an epidural, the contractions and delivery can be extremely painful.

Tearing: No matter how much you try to prepare, there is always a risk that the skin surrounding your vagina will tear during birth. If it is severe, you’ll likely need stitches to help it come back together and heal. Although it usually heals quickly, the area may still cause some pain or discomfort for weeks or possibly months after delivery.

Loss of Control: After giving birth vaginally, some women will experience urinary or bowel incontinence. Leaking is most likely to happen when sneezing, laughing or coughing. Fortunately, control can be built back up again over time.

Caesarean Section

A C-section is when a doctor will surgically remove the baby from the mother’s uterus, usually due to factors that would put the mother or baby at risk if a vaginal delivery were carried out. In some circumstances, you and your doctor may decide a C-section is the best option in advance, while in other cases it may not be planned until you are already in labor.

Before a C-section, you will likely receive some sort of anesthesia so that you cannot feel any pain from the surgery. The doctor will then make incisions in your lower abdomen in order to gain access to your womb. He or she will then remove the baby and placenta. At this point, the doctor will close the incision, completing the delivery.

Here is a list of some of the most common scenarios where a C-section may be needed:

  • You are giving birth to multiples.
  • You have high blood pressure, diabetes, an infection or another medical condition that may complicate a vaginal delivery.
  • There have been issues with the placenta.
  • The baby is too large to fit through your pelvis.
  • The baby is breech, meaning it is not head-down in birthing position.
  • Labor is not progressing or is progressing too slowly.
  • The baby does not have enough oxygen.
  • You have had complications with previous vaginal deliveries.

While this may seem like a long list, only about one in three women deliver by C-section in the United States. Even if you do need one, you can rest assured knowing that the procedure is completely safe for both you and your baby. There may even be some benefits that come with this method of delivery that you would not experience with a vaginal birth.


Predictable: While not all C-sections are planned in advance, if yours is you can schedule it at a time that is convenient for you and your family. This means that you also know exactly when your delivery is going to happen, making it easier to prepare and make arrangements.

Quick: Compared to a vaginal labor and delivery, which can last up to 24 hours and sometimes longer, a C-section usually takes around 30 minutes. You also won’t have to experience the pain of contractions and vaginal birth if your C-section occurs before you go into labor naturally.


Recovery: Women who have a C-section usually have a much harder and longer recovery than those who deliver vaginally. The hospital stay is typically between two and four days, and you are likely to have pain or discomfort around your incision until your nerves and skin are healed, which can take up to two months or longer.

Risks: C-sections are considered to have higher risks to the mother than a vaginal birth, such as infection, blood clots, bladder injuries or blood loss. However, these are fairly uncommon. Babies may also be at higher risk to have breathing issues following a C-section birth.

Future Deliveries: If you have a C-section, it is much more likely that you will have to deliver your future children by C-section as well. In addition, each one becomes more risky than the last. After having multiple C-sections, your doctor may advise you from becoming pregnant again.

Stay Calm and Enjoy Your Delivery

Whichever delivery method you and your doctor decide is best for you and your baby, there is no need to worry about it in advance. As long as you are in medically good hands, it is unlikely that anything will go wrong. Even if a complication does arise, professionals are trained to respond and will make sure you and your baby are as healthy as possible. Instead of stressing out about possible scenarios, just relax and enjoy the arrival of your little one.

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