Most of the time, when you need a cesarean (i.e., C) section to deliver your baby, it’s because you can’t or shouldn’t deliver vaginally. However, some women elect to have a C-section even when it’s not medically necessary. They believe having a hard delivery date and skipping the labor pains are worth it.
Whenever possible, a vaginal delivery is safest and healthiest for your baby. Your baby even has its immune system boosted when it passes through your vagina, and gets exposed to beneficial bacteria in your vaginal fluids. The muscular contractions of labor also help squeeze fluid out of the baby’s lungs.
Nevertheless, about one in three births in the United States is performed by C-section. Your OB/GYN may recommend a C-section if you have:
- High blood pressure
- HIV infection
- Active herpes in the vaginal area
- Heart disease
- Neurological problems
- Problems with placenta
- Extreme anxiety about birth
- Twins or other multiples
- Baby in the breech position
- Baby with an extremely large head
- Other life-threatening conditions
If you’re pregnant, our expert OB/GYNs, Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD, at Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville, encourage you to deliver vaginally whenever possible. However, your health or your baby’s health might demand a C-section. You could also elect to have one for personal reasons.
What’s the difference between the recovery time and process for a vaginal delivery versus a C-section? The answer may vary according to circumstance, but the general timelines below can help you decide or prepare.
Vaginal birth is usually a shorter hospital stay
When you deliver vaginally, you usually don’t need to stay in the hospital for more than a day or two. Of course, you may have been in labor for much of a day or more before you gave birth.
In contrast, you don’t experience labor during a C-section, so don’t account for that in your hospital time. However, because a C-section is surgery, your OB/GYN generally keeps you in the hospital after delivery for 2-4 days. If there were complications, it could be longer.
Healing is faster with vaginal delivery
Even though you’re sore after vaginal delivery, your recovery time is much faster than with a C-section. When your perineum is torn or cut by your doctor, that lengthens your recovery time.
However, in almost all cases, you can return to most activities within two weeks. You can start having sexual intercourse in about six weeks. If you deliver by C-section, recovery may take 6-8 weeks.
C-section recovery may be more painful
Because a C-section is a major surgery requiring your surgeon to open up your lower abdomen and uterus, your recovery may require more painkillers to manage soreness and pain. During the birth itself, you don’t feel pain because you don’t undergo labor.
In other words, if you deliver vaginally, most of your pain is experienced during labor, with some soreness afterward. If you have a C-section delivery, you have no pain during the delivery but may have intense pain and discomfort during your recovery.
You may have tenderness and pain at your incision site for up to two months. You also can’t bend down and lift objects (including your baby) for some time.
Both methods may have side-effects
Both you and your baby may suffer complications or side effects from a vaginal or C-section delivery. Some effects are the same for both, while some are slightly different.
Side-effects regardless of the delivery
- Postpartum bleeding
- Vaginal discharge
- Sore, enlarged breasts
- Postpartum depression
Possible vaginal delivery after-effects
- Vaginal soreness
- Pelvic organ prolapse
Possible C-section after-effects
- Digestive problems
- Tender incision site
- More likely to have lactation difficulties
- Can’t take baths for about three weeks
Of course, you also have an abdominal scar after a C-section, which would not be the case in vaginal delivery.
How would you and your baby be best served - by vaginal delivery or a C-section? Contact our supportive team today in Jacksonville, Florida, by calling or using the appointment form online to discuss your options.