The Deal with Delivery: Natural Birth or C-Section?

When it comes to the topic of parenthood, it is safe to say that those expecting have quite a bit on their minds. From the subject of cloth vs. disposable diapers to the differences between vaginal or Cesarean section (C-section) delivery, what’s the best option?

Unlike most things related to child-rearing, delivery preferences do not always fall to the parent. Stephanie Rossano is an excellent example of someone who expected to have a vaginal birth and almost did. “I initially told my doctor that I wanted to avoid a C-section,” says Rossano, a first-time mother. “However, my daughter was breech; she wouldn’t turn. To prevent anything bad happening to us, we had to book a cesarean.”

Like many women, Stephanie had to be induced for the C-Section surgery to avoid complications for her child’s health and herself. After her C-Section, she had to stay at the hospital for three days with her newborn. She had a catheter and remained at the hospital until she could physically show she could care for herself. 

Year after year, millions of women have the same experiences. Some plan for a C-Section only to end up delivering vaginally, while others hope for a natural, vaginal birth only to end up needing an emergency Cesarean to save their baby’s life. Especially while living through the height of a pandemic, the art of birthing has never garnered more unpredictability.

Between a vaginal vs. C-Section birth, which method is objectively “better” for mothers? The answer roughly depends on the circumstances, health, and situation of the mother giving birth.


What to Expect: C-Section vs. Natural Birth

The Procedure 

Vaginal birth follows uterine contractions, which feel like heavy-duty menstrual cramps. They move the baby down to a dilated cervix, making room for the baby to pass through the vaginal opening after a series of pushes. The entire process of labor and delivery can last anywhere from 12-30 hours for first-time mothers. 

Crystal Montes, a first-time mother and delivery nurse, had a Meconium-related delivery, meaning the baby passed waste while still inside the uterus. “They wanted to start me on Oxytocin, and I knew the artificial contractions would begin, which means they would be very intense. I wanted a natural birth but knew that was no longer on the table.” To avoid the risk of infection, the delivery staff administered Oxytocin to intensify Crystal’s contractions. She gave birth several hours later to a healthy baby girl. 

In contrast, a C-section operation can generally take less than an hour to complete, from start to finish. Most C-sections occur while the mother is awake, with either a spinal block or epidural numbing her from the breasts down. Even with pain management options in place, there might still be a bit of pressure during the delivery. Stephanie weighed in on the experience with us, “It only took 45 minutes, and there was my baby! They gave me an epidural, so I was numb from below my breasts, all the way down. There was a sheet right below my breasts, and I had to wear a headcover, a mask for oxygen, and they had my arms pinned down, which means I couldn’t hold her. For me, skin-to-skin contact ended up being cheek to cheek. However, skin-to-skin contact is super important, so my partner provided that for my daughter after her birth.”


The Recovery

As all women are different, recovery time frames are difficult to gauge. After giving birth, the uterus shrinks. Going through the whole transition of delivery is painful because the body has had nine months to widen. A vaginal birth helps the uterus shrink due to an immediate pressure release. Postpartum effects of vaginal delivery can include cramping, bleeding, and soreness.

For C-sections, the side effects might last longer, with slightly more severity. To boost circulation, those recovering from C-sections must move around. Post-discharge, new moms will likely be sent home with a light prescription for pain medication, along with instructions for wound care.

Stephanie was monitored closely for two days following her C-section delivery, while Crystal, a mother who delivered vaginally, went home within 24 hours. Vaginal and Cesarean sections highlight many differences, along with a long line of misconceptions surrounding birth during a pandemic. To ease the minds of expecting mothers in Baton Rouge, we spoke with local delivery experts about giving birth in a pandemic.


Safely Giving Birth During a Pandemic

With COVID-19 still living amongst us, the delivery question breathes loudly throughout the halls of hospitals. A local source at Louisiana Woman’s Hospital gave us the inside scoop on what to expect when you’re expecting–the COVID-19 edition, “Right now, we are only allowing one visitor, and it must be the same visitor throughout the stay–from discharge to delivery. The waiting room is not open for additional visitors. Once the mother dilates to six cm, the second person can visit. The hospital is checking temperatures. Everyone has to wear a mask, especially nurses and staff. Some of the doctor’s offices are asking their pregnant patients to quarantine for the last two weeks of the pregnancy, especially if they’ve gotten through the sickness of self-isolation for 14 days prior.”

So, when it comes to the deal of delivery, vaginal vs. C-sectional can sometimes be more circumstantial than a matter of preference. Having a general sense of preparedness will make last-minute delivery decisions that much easier.