Natural birth or scheduled Caesarean section: advantages and disadvantages

Indeed, each of the two methods has its advantages and disadvantages. The QUALI-DEC project researchers analyzed all the studies published around the world that compared maternal and newborn health outcomes by mode of delivery.

There is often a lack of information on the risks associated with each of the two methods. This is why QUALI-DEC makes the results of these studies available to you, including a booklet to download to help you make the right decision.

Natural childbirth

In natural childbirth, the baby will show its desire to come out by pushing or contracting the uterus towards the vagina. This type of birth, which is as physiological as possible, can be a safe and positive experience for most women. Except in specific cases, the woman’s body is designed for this type of birth.

The often painful uterine contractions can be controlled by massage, acupressure, acupuncture, baths (or showers) in hot water, hypnosis, medication (opioids), breathing or lower body anaesthesia (epidural).

At the time of delivery, there is always the possibility of using an instrument (forceps or suction cup) to help the baby come out or a caesarean section, because of the complications that arise at that time. But most women going into labour will have a vaginal delivery without medical intervention.

Hospitalization lasts about 48 hours after a vaginal delivery.

Caesarean section

A caesarean section is a surgical procedure in which your baby is delivered through an incision in the abdomen and uterus. A Caesarean section is an abdominal surgical operation. It requires lower body anaesthesia, or general anaesthesia in some cases. It is therefore performed in the operating theatre. The length of hospitalisation is 3 to 4 days.

Normally, a caesarean section is performed for medical reasons, such as health problems of the mother or baby, before or during delivery.

Scheduled Caesarean section

La césarienne peut être programmée par votre médecin en général aux alentours de la 39e semaine de grossesse. Elle nécessite votre entrée à l’hôpital la veille de l’intervention.

A Caesarean section can be scheduled by your doctor usually around the 39th week of pregnancy. It requires you to be admitted to hospital the day before the operation.

In certain very specific cases, a caesarean section may be necessary. These are medical reasons such as :

  • multiple pregnancy,
  • baby badly positioned in the belly, risk of breech birth,
  • premature birth,
  • illness of the mother during pregnancy,
  • previous caesarean section deliveries.

Sometimes Caesarean sections of convenience are performed. Planning the birth at the desired time, fear of pain by the mother, control and time saving, a prettier baby after birth… there are many reasons for this programming.

However, as with all surgical procedures, there are risks for both mother and baby.

Natural childbirth or programmed caesarean section: advantages and disadvantages

Many doctors and scientists deplore a lack of information on the risks of vaginal birth. Others, on the contrary, believe that a caesarean section is more risky for the mother and baby.

How to find your way around? The very thorough QUALI-DEC studies give you some clues in the booklet at the bottom of the page that you can download.

But first of all, here is a short reminder of the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

THE ADVANTAGES OF NATURAL CHILDBIRTH

  • If you and your baby are in good health and receive appropriate support from qualified personnel, natural childbirth avoids unnecessary medical interventions and the risks associated with surgery and/or anaesthesia.

  • A natural childbirth also avoids complications for future pregnancies related to a caesarean section scar, should you become pregnant again.

  • Normally, women who have a vaginal birth need a shorter hospital stay and recover more quickly than those who have a caesarean section.

  • With a natural birth, you will have immediate and sustained contact with your baby and increase your chances of starting and successfully breastfeeding.

THE INCONVENIENCES OF VAGINAL DELIVERY

  • A forceps or suction delivery is possible if the baby has difficulty coming out.

  • A complication of vaginal birth for the baby is the risk of injury to the nerves that send signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand.

  • After birth, there is a risk of pain in the perineum.

  • There is also an increased risk of bladder weakness in the following two years. The perineum needs to be re-educated to prevent leakage. Each vaginal birth increases the risk of bladder weakness a little more, but this leakage usually disappears within two years after the birth.

THE BENEFITS OF A PLANNED CESAREAN SECTION

  • If it is performed before the start of labour, a caesarean section can prevent pain during labour and excessively long labour.

  • A scheduled Caesarean section reduces the risk of an emergency Caesarean section during labour or a forceps or vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery.

  • With a caesarean section, you will have less pain in the perineum after the baby is born and during the first three months after birth than if you had a vaginal delivery.

  • With a caesarean section, you will probably reduce the risk of accidental or involuntary urine loss (urinary incontinence) over the next two years, but there is no difference afterwards compared to a vaginal birth.

THE DISADVANTAGES OF SCHEDULED CESAREAN SECTIONS

  • The length of hospitalisation is longer after a caesarean section than after a vaginal delivery.

  • After a caesarean section, you should expect more abdominal pain in the first three months after birth and there is a risk of persistent pain in the wound for 12 months or more.

  • After a caesarean section, you may need extra help at home to take care of you and the baby.

  • A caesarean section increases the risk of postpartum haemorrhage, which can lead to an operation to remove the uterus (hysterectomy).

  • A caesarean section will increase the risk of complications in future pregnancies (uterine rupture, placental detachment, placenta previa or accreta, ectopic pregnancy).

  • A baby born by caesarean section is at higher risk of breathing difficulties after birth, especially if the delivery takes place before the 39th week of gestation.
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    – After a caesarean section, the chances of successful breastfeeding are reduced.
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    – Complications in adulthood are more common in babies born by caesarean section than by low birth weight: obesity, diabetes and allergies.