Planned C-section vs. Natural Childbirth: Pros and Cons

Today, a growing number of women are asking doctors for c-sections when there is no actual medical need for this type of delivery. It’s important to know the pros and cons of a C-section birth vs. natural childbirth if you or a loved one is pregnant and expecting a child.

On average, one out of every three newborn babies in the U.S. is delivered via Caesarean section instead of naturally. It’s important to know the majority of the low-risk pregnancies that are planned deliveries involve elevated risks of maternal complications and death compared to a natural vaginal childbirth.

Despite this elevated risk associated to elective C-sections, first-time mothers with low-risk pregnancies are more likely than ever to give birth to their baby this way in the city of Miami, Florida compared to anywhere else in the nation- and most of these pregnant women opting for C-sections are Hispanic, according to a new study released by Consumer Reports.

How expectant Hispanic mothers fit in with global trends

Although C-section rates are dropping overall across the nation, records of recent C-section deliveries in the United States show a trend among Hispanic women, who are getting more C-sections compared to their non-Hispanic white counterparts, according to the CDC.

Dr. Joseph Mosquera, saludmóvil’s chief medical expert, says answers to these trends partly lie in unrealistic cultural pressures along with financial incentives for doctors and health institutions.

“There is a thought that once a child is delivered vaginally, the women’s sexual function could be affected negatively,” Dr. Mosquera notes. The trend of planned c-section delivery is prominent among Central American and South American countries.

In Mexico, for example, nearly one in two women give birth by C-section today in public and private hospitals. In private Mexican hospitals alone, the rate is 70 percent.

Benefits of planned C-section versus natural childbirth

Though your body is naturally equipped to give birth vaginally without medical intervention, fear of childbirth can cause anxiety and emotional turmoil, and also add weighed cultural pressures for expectant first time mothers.

Planned cesarean sections can be more convenient for women, with the baby’s delivery date scheduled ahead of time and the family being able to plan around the birth.

Other benefits of planned C-sections include

• Reduced risk of postpartum hemorrhaging
• Slightly lower risks of complications, including infection, accidental injury to abdominal organs, lacerations to the baby, and anesthesia-related problems
• If you have an STD or infection (such as herpes, HIV, hepatitis, and HPV), your risk of infecting your baby is greatly reduced with a cesarean section
• Less likelihood of urinary incontinence in the weeks after giving birth.
• Much lower risk of vaginal birth trauma such as swelling, bruising, or vagina tearing
Risks of Cesarean sections compared to vaginal delivery
An elective cesarean is much more expensive than a vaginal birth, and not all insurance carriers cover planned c-sections. It also almost always means a longer hospital stay and bill.

If you plan on having a larger family, you may want to think twice about a planned cesarean section. After one or more c-sections, in future pregnancies, you have an increased risk for developing placenta previa, causing severe bleeding and putting yourself and baby in serious danger.

Other cons of a planned C-sections include

• Deadly postpartum infections
• You lose more blood in a cesarean section than a vaginal delivery, and could potentially require a blood transfusion. Bleeding may be so bad that it may require a surgical removal of the uterus
• Anesthesia side effects may include severe headache, nausea, and vomiting. Anesthesia may also affect the baby, causing him or her to be sluggish or inactive when born
• Heart attacks, blood clots in the veins
• Opening of the wound and/or numbness or pain in the area around the scar
• In a planned cesarean delivery, you even face possible pre-term delivery if your estimated due date was not originally correct.

Be cautious using the C-section risk calculator

By visiting a website that offers a C-section risk calculator, expectant mothers are promised to be able, based on age, weight, ethnicity and city of residence, to determine their likelihood to have a preterm or low birth weight infant ,or to have a cesarean birth. However, these calculations, are all based off of current statistic and trends. So, for example, if you’re pregnant, you live in Miami, you’re 28 and Hispanic, you have a 48% likelihood of a C-section.

This risk calculator may encourage many women to plan a C-section when in actuality it may not be the most cost-effective or healthiest choice for a first time expectant mother.

If it’s a low-risk pregnancy, natural birth is the ideal option

If you are lucky enough to be able to choose your childbirth method, it’s important to note that women have an especially strong sense of empowerment and accomplishment after a natural, vaginal birth versus a c-section. When you are directly involved, pushing your baby through the birth canal out into the world after carrying them for 9 months is unfathomably rewarding.

Natural birth also means an average of  1 to 2 days of hospital stay, less postpartum pain, and overall a much more affordable experience. If you are looking to have a big family, labor may be shorter and move along quicker in pregnancies to follow the first natural birth.

Given the health risks associated with cesarean section procedures, the World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that the target rate internationally should be half of the current c-section rate in the US which is 32.2% as of 2014.

The U.S. is actively trying to lower its current c-section birthrate among low-risk women to 22.2% by 2020, according to the initiative.

When choosing a method of childbirth, Dr. Mosquera urges expectant mothers to inform themselves on the pros and cons of of a natural birth versus a cesarean section, and to always speak with their doctor or healthcare professional before making a final decision.