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Congratulation, you are having a baby and it is now time to plan for the arrival of your bundle of joy. Your obstetrician may have offered you the choice of a natural (vaginal) delivery or an elective caesarean (C-section).
Deciding whether a natural or caesarean delivery is right for you is a question you should discuss with your doctor so that you know exactly what either option entails, and how your personal circumstances and medical history plays a part.
Here’s what you need to know before that conversation.
While both modes of delivery are generally safe, they each carry a degree of risk which can vary mother to mother. A quick tip is to also check if your medical insurance plan covers complications from a natural and/or elective C-section delivery.
Here’s what to expect with each procedure and what the risks and complications may be.
A natural delivery happens when your baby is delivered naturally through your vagina.
There are 3 stages of labour during vaginal childbirth. These stages are determined by the dilation (widening) of your cervix.
The contractions a pregnant woman experiences signal the start of labour. And the first stage of labour happens when her cervix has dilated to 10cm, and she will be asked to push. Stage 2 happens when the baby crowns, which is when the baby’s head is visible at the vagina opening. A final push should see the baby get delivered. In the final 3rd stage, the mother’s placenta is expelled.
Mothers who have had a natural vaginal delivery without any medical complications can expect to be discharged from hospital after 24 – 48 hours. As the body continues to heal for the next 3 – 6 weeks, vaginal bleeding may be experienced.
Not all vaginal births go as smoothly as planned. The delivery can involve one or all of the following.
A C-section is a surgical procedure where your doctor makes an incision through your lower abdomen and uterus to deliver the baby. It can be done under regional (epidural or spinal block) or general anaesthetic. Mothers will remain awake for the former option.
An elective C-section is normally performed a week before the expected due date, or when the doctor notes that there might be a complication or health issues during pregnancy. However, mothers may request for their doctor to perform an elective C-section delivery after making an informed decision with the doctor.
While elective caesarean surgery is an option, it is not recommended because it is still a major surgery with risks of complications for both mother and child.
Lower risk of:
You are required to be stay in hospital for 2 – 4 days after delivery and, in the first few weeks of recovery at home, the C-section scar may itch or cause pain that can be relieved with pain medication. Moving around and getting in and out of bed will be difficult and painful at the start.
Even though a mother had not gone through a vaginal delivery, they may still experience mild cramps, vaginal bleeding, or discharge for about 4 – 6 weeks. A follow-up appointment with the doctor post-birth will be necessary to review the wound; and at 6 weeks, a second follow-up appointment to assess recovery.
Discuss the risks of a C-section with your doctor before making a decision on whether to undergo the procedure. Some of the possible risks include:
Many women who had a C-section can go on to deliver their next baby safely by vaginal delivery. However, there are always risks of complications in future pregnancies. These include:
Discuss each type of delivery with your doctor so an informed decision can be made. Weigh up the pros and cons for the health of both mother and baby as it may affect future plans to have more children. Remember, just because an elective C-section is an option, it may not be the best choice for mother and child.