C-section & Natural Birth
C-section or natural birth? Your choice!
Unless there are circumstances that reduce your amount of options, it is your choice. Your preferred birthing method will not be met with judgment, but with an open mind. I have delivered thousands of babies and my experience across birthing methods is what I refer to, when I give you unbiased advice.
By now you will have heard about, or read up, on the many conversations around this topic. The pros and cons of vaginal (or natural) birth and caesareans (c-sections) are widely discussed on hundreds of thousands of pages.
To keep it simple: there are situations where a c-section is needed or advised. If that is the preferred birthing method to protect the safety of your baby and of yourself as a mum, then the conversation will be about that particular choice.
And then we all know that ‘natural’ birth is called ‘natural’ for a reason. In most cases, the generalisation that ‘your body was designed to give birth and knows what to do’, will be the big argument to prefer a natural birth.
In my conversations with you, as your obstetrician, I always start with your choice and your preference.
C-section vs Natural birth
The pros and cons are nothing new. Ever since the introduction of c-sections here in Perth and across the world, there have been discussions and debates. This is the entire debate about the pros and cons in short:
- Leads to a shorter hospital time
- Incurs a shorter recovery time compared with a c-section
- Avoids major surgery and the associated risks (scarring, infections, reactions to anaesthesia and pain that lasts longer)
- A mum who is ready to hold her baby and to start breastfeeding without the side-effects of the anaesthetics
- Avoids the risks of tears around the vagina
- Studies suggest a reduced risk of urinary incontinence compared to vaginal birth
- Can be scheduled in advance
- Avoids potential long labour
- Infection risk at the incision site
- Higher risk of clots in the leg or lungs
- Longer recovery period
I can’t highlight enough that your antenatal journey is about you. A conversation about your preferred delivery method is part of our many conversations with your obstetrician. My goal is always to make sure that are you are well informed, to then make your own choices.
Elective C-section vs emergency c-section
If this is your first pregnancy, or if you have given birth vaginally previously, then you may not have a clear view on what is meant by ‘elective c-section’ versus ‘emergency c-section’.
An elective C-section would be planned after having discussed your results and your preferences with me as your obstetrician. If you choose to plan a c-section, it is generally undertaken at 39 weeks gestation.
An emergency c-section is performed in situations where your labour has started, and where you embark on a vaginal birth procedure. If for some reason, a complication such as obstructed labour or fetal distress poses a risk to your health or your baby’s health, then we may decide to perform an emergency c-section.
The decision is made as soon as any risk to your baby’s health and wellbeing is identified. At St John of God Murdoch Hospital, the teams are well trained to assess and report these risks and can help smooth the transition from a planned vaginal birth, to an emergency c-section.
With an emergency c-section, your partner will usually remain with you at all times. You are usually awake and alert throughout as spinal or epidural blocks provide the necessary anaesthesia. We deliver your baby in the safest possible way, with a focus getting skin to skin contact and breastfeeding happening as soon as possible while also on minimising pain and discomfort for you as a mum after the delivery.
Because a c-section is a surgical procedure, you are looking at a longer recovery period. There are many published studies online and you may find links to articles by obstetricians or online posts by members of the public. Some can have a heavy bias one way or the other. It’s important to know that every pregnancy and every delivery is unique.
Thanks to our team’s follow-up, from your first appointment onward, we make sure that we have a full picture of your pregnancy. This will also define the details of your recovery after a c-section.
It is fair to assume that your recovery after a c-section will be longer, compared to recovering from a natural birth. You can expect to stay at St John of God Murdoch Hospital for three or four days and you will need to rest. The main difference is you are not able to bounce out of bed on the first or second night to attend to your baby. After the first 48 hours, you are able to do everything that you need to do to care for your newborn, but you will do it much slower than otherwise. In this case, it’s good to ask family and friends to help you with changing nappies. You will be asked to avoid any type of lifting, and to hold your incision site when you cough or sneeze.
Walking will be recommended to avoid blood clots and to avoid constipation, but I will tell you to avoid strenuous exercise.
And because - as your obstetrician - I consider it my role to also look at your wellbeing in general, I will make sure that you can talk about your feelings, and take care of your emotional health after having gone through a c-section to deliver your baby.
Natural or vaginal birth in itself is a big topic.
Whether you follow the hospital’s standard procedure, or include specific preferences in your birth plan, I will go over the details with you to make sure you make well-informed decisions.
With a natural birth, you may have a clear idea about your preferences in regards to pain relief during labour. Alternatively you may want to go in with a very open mind and see how things go and see how you feel and see how you cope. Frequent conversations here, are around your questions or preferences in regards to induction and epidurals.
We talk about it at your antenatal appointments. If everything runs smoothly, I try to respect your wishes and we follow your birth plan. I advise you to maintain a level of flexibility, so that if there is any type of complication, we are all clear about our ‘plan B’. Any change is only undertaken with clear explanation and understanding.
Natural birth will have a variable effect on your pelvic floor and your vagina. Episiotomies are rarely performed unless you have an instrumental delivery, however, there are still some occasions when it is necessary. This decision is made right at the time of delivery and with explanation and permission. Recovery can take from three to six weeks or longer, depending on whether you had any tears.
After a natural birth
My role as your obstetrician doesn’t stop when your newborn baby is in your hands. As you go through this big change in your life and in your family situation, I am here to help.
This phase is about monitoring your recovery and making sure that your baby receives the best care and gets the standards tests. If any assistance of a paediatrician is advised, I coordinate your appointments for you. There is always a paediatrician on call at St John of God Murdoch. The paediatrician will usually see your baby for a day one check and a day of discharge check or any other time you or the midwives have concerns about issues such as feeding/weight gain, jaundice or breathing troubles.
Giving birth at St John of God Murdoch Hospital means that you can count on a team of experienced experts. From basic care for you as a mum to assistance with breastfeeding or any type of help you may need to start taking care of your baby.
At any stage, if you have questions about choosing a birthing method - or about choosing an obstetrician, don’t hesitate to call my practice and to ask your question.
We’re here to help, even if the birth of your precious baby is still a while away.