Ultimately, a natural birth may be more painful than a cesarean section. However, the pain after your cesarean section combined with the heightened risks to you and your baby may outweigh the initial pain of childbirth.
Ultimately, a natural birth may be more painful than a cesarean section. However, the pain after your cesarean section combined with the heightened risks to you and your baby may outweigh the initial pain of childbirth.

Over the past twenty years, the amount of women in the U.S. with low-risk births who opt for cesarean sections has grown. One out of every three babies is now born through c-sections. Women assume that c-sections will be safer, easier, and less painful than natural births. However, is this really true? Keep reading to learn about c-sections versus natural births.

What is a C-section?

A C-section, or cesarean section, is a surgical procedure in which a baby is delivered through significant cuts on the abdomen and uterus. Often, they are performed in situations where natural birth is deemed risky either for the mother or child. You might plan one ahead of time due to known underlying health conditions, or your doctors might deem it necessary to perform one as you go into labor.

While C-sections are generally deemed safe, they do pose a few risks. It is essential to know what those risks are so that you can make the right decision for your unique situation.

The risks associated with C-sections are:

  • Infections. C-sections leave you more vulnerable to uterine infections.
  • Hemorrhage. C-sections can cause heavy bleeding both during birth and after birth.
  • Complications with anesthesia. Some patients have adverse reactions to certain forms of anesthesia.
  • Blood clotting. You may have a heightened risk for blood clotting in crucial veins in your legs or pelvis. Sometimes these clots can travel to other parts of your body and can be life-threatening.
  • Wound infection. It’s possible for the incision points of your C-section to get infected.
  • Injury during the procedure. This is very rare, but sometimes damage to the bladder or bowel can occur during the surgery. If this happens, you will most likely need to have another surgery.
  • Future complications. C-sections increase your risk of future pregnancy complications more than natural births do. The more C-sections you have, the more likely your placenta is to attach to the uterine wall. Your uterus is also more at risk of tearing along your scar line. While most women find they can give birth naturally after having a C-section, there is a chance you might not be able to.

What are some of the risks for natural birth?

Natural births are varied in both how they are practiced and how each woman’s body reacts to them. Perceptions of the pain involved in natural birth also vary from person to person.

A natural birth can be a birth that is simply done through the vaginal canal. Depending on your medical situation or preferences, you can choose to take medications or possibly even decide not to give birth in the hospital. Usually, births done with these alternative methods are low-risk births. However, more high-risk births might need to take place in a hospital.

Natural childbirth is typically very safe for the mother and baby. However, you can put yourself and your child at risk if you do not follow medical advice or suggested treatments if things start to go wrong.

After a natural birth, expect the following:

  • Exhaustion. Both you and your baby will need to sleep for quite a while after you give birth.
  • Feeling cold. Many women feel cold and shaky after they give birth.
  • Soreness. Cramping, pain, and discomfort in and around your vagina are very common after childbirth.
  • Intense feelings. After you give birth and see your baby for the first time, it's normal to experience overwhelming emotion. It's okay to take your time and experience the entirety of what you've just been through and accomplished.

Are C-sections more painful than natural births?

Before your cesarean section, your doctor will administer anesthesia to you so that you cannot feel the incision or surgical process. During a cesarean section, you will most likely not feel much pain. However, after your C-section, you may experience quite a lot of pain. Recovery times following C-sections are also typically longer than those following natural birth.

Ultimately, a natural birth may be more painful than a cesarean section. However, the pain after your cesarean section combined with the heightened risks to you and your baby may outweigh the initial pain of childbirth.

Make sure you consult with your doctors to get the best possible advice for you. Every pregnancy and birth is different. What may be perfectly safe for you may not be for someone else and vice versa.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/15/2021
References
Cleveland Clinic: "Why You Should Carefully Weigh C-Section Against a Vaginal Birth."

Mayo Clinic: "C-section."

Nemours KidsHealth: "Natural Childbirth."