10 Ways C-sections & vaginal births are basically the same

pregnant bellyNo matter the details of your labor--whether it involved an epidural and a hospital bed, a water birth overseen by a midwife, or an elective or emergency C-section--there are certain commonalities between all baby deliveries. Don't think so? Check out our list of 10 ways in which C-sections and vaginal births are essentially identical.


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1. During the birth, you can't see what's going on "down there." If you're having a C-section, doctors will place a curtain above your abdominal area so that you don't have to panic at the sight of your belly and uterus being sliced open (and, possibly, having your uterus and intestines extricated for closer inspection). Then again, if you think about it, you can't really see much during a vaginal birth either since your view will be obstructed by your oversize baby bump--especially if you're lying down on your back or side. Either way, you'll be asking everyone around you, "Is he out? Can you see anything? What's going on?"

2. Things won't go exactly as planned. You may be planning on a natural delivery at home, imagining yourself giving birth in a lukewarm tub. You may picture a room decorated with lush flowers, soothing music playing in the background, the child's father massaging your shoulders and feet or stroking your hair to keep you calm and relaxed. But, at the end of the day, your elaborate birthing plan could be for naught. Complications could arise during a home birth, requiring you to seek care in a traditional hospital. The baby might arrive before the traditional 37 to 42 week window recommended for safe home births, again forcing you to recalibrate your plans. You may hate the music you thought would be soothing and beg someone to shut it off. Similarly, even with an elective C-section, babies can arrive sooner than expected, altering what you thought would be a perfectly timed and orchestrated labor. Bottom line: You can make all the plans in the world, but your baby is the one running this particular ship!

 3. You'll need lots of menstrual pads after labor--lots. After nine months without menstruating, you'll once again be reunited with the Crimson Tide after your child's birth--and, this time around, it will be a-raging. No matter whether your child was delivered vaginally or via C-section, once the uterus begins shrinking to its pre-pregnancy size, heavy bleeding will occur and you'll find yourself changing your heavy-duty, mattress-thick pad every one to two hours. And yes, it will feel like a gruesome CSI murder scene every time you change your pad. 

 4. Skin-to-skin contact is encouraged. During a standard vaginal birth at a hospital, a mother will get to embrace her baby and rely on skin-to-skin contact to normalize his temperature, breathing and heart rate. The practice also promotes bonding between a mother and child immediately after the latter emerges from the womb. In contrast, it's been customary for moms who deliver their children via C-section to be forced to wait 30 to 45 minutes after to hold their newborns. Nowadays, however, thanks to the growing "gentle C-section" movement, which advocates placing newborns on their moms' chests immediately after labor, moms who endure surgical deliveries can also enjoy immediate skin-to-skin-contact with their bundles of joy.

5. It will be painful. You may choose to get an epidural to ease the pain during a vaginal delivery and you'll doubtless have anesthesia for a C-section since it is, after all, a surgical procedure. But even with the help of medication, labor will hurt--whether it's the "ring of fire" pain some women experience when a baby is crowning during a vaginal delivery or the pressure experienced during a C-section as the baby is pried out of the uterus. And either way, at some point, even the most potent meds begin to wear off--and that's when the real fun begins!

6. Help will be necessary during the recovery process. Moms who deliver via C-section have longer recovery periods and are encouraged to limit physical activity, which can prove immensely challenging when caring for a newborn, but even moms who have traditional vaginal births will feel tired, weak and achy for weeks after labor. In other words, no matter the details of the labor experience, new moms need help when tending to their babies while also healing after delivery.

7. Constipation is likely. After a C-section, women might have to endure four or five days without the relief of a bowel movement. But then, the same is true after a vaginal birth. Either way, prune juice will be your friend.

8. Daddy might just faint. As all women know, even the most macho guy can be a big baby in the delivery room. He may be squeamish over the sight of blood (or feces or any other fluid emerging from your body). He may feel light-headed at the sight of a cantaloupe-sized head emerging from your vagina. Or he may just lose it altogether if he decides to go behind the curtain during a C-section and witness the nuances of the medical procedure (intestines being pulled out and so forth). No matter what, you may need to keep some smelling salts handy!

9. You'll have to go a month without sex. Doctors recommend new moms wait six weeks after their delivery before having sex again– regardless of whether they gave birth vaginally or via Cesarean. Yes, you might start going batty after a couple of weeks, but you'll live!

 10. Holding your baby will be magical. No matter how he's ushered into the world, that first moment when you first look into your baby's face, when you feel his tiny body in your arms, will feel like the closest thing to heaven you've ever experienced.

 Image via Thinkstock

Topics: birth  c-section  childbirth  giving birth  labor  vagina  what to expect when you have a baby