Every birth is beautiful and no matter how your baby comes into the world, ultimately it is a celebration.
Understanding how a vaginal birth is different from a c-section birth (as well as all the variations within each) is important to help you decide what might be best for you and your baby. Ultimately, however, we have to remember that the decision may be out of your hands.
It’s always best to start with what is the most optimal option for you and your baby, and if that is not possible then working through what is the next most optimal. In order to facilitate some of the wonderful hormones, allowing for some labour, even if it is just prelabour is a good idea. So from a hormonal perspective, trialling labour before an emergency c-section is preferred over a scheduled c-section.
Hormones in mum and baby
Oxytocin levels surge in both mother and baby during labour, specifically around crowning and after birth for the ‘golden hour’ which creates an easier bond and starts breastfeeding. With c-section, unless we have experienced some natural labour (without an epidural that also interferes with hormonal orchestration) we don’t gain these levels.
Research shows that bonding and breastfeeding are more challenging following c-sections which could also be due to the discomfort and lack of movement a mum has to twist, sit up and pick up her baby comfortably.
Neuroscience is now starting to explore the effects of oxytocin levels and endorphins in new mums (and partners) showing that it creates a new brain – there is a meltdown and rewiring going in postpartum which not only changes our daily routine but also how we think about ourselves and the world, our role within it.
In the third trimester, the mother’s gut flora leak into the birth canal and create a completely unique lactobacillus. This initiates the seeding of the baby’s microbiome and immunity going forward.
It has been found that c-section babies tend to have more respiratory, skin and dietary issues as well as higher incidences of autism and we believe it has to do with a lack of good seeding.
Other benefits of vaginal birth are more esoteric and not grounded in evidence but I suppose found through many of the proud ranting mums out there who feel incredibly proud and strong.
This is because nature has created a very intense and challenging rite of passage through birth. It is designed to be difficult to bring about the sense of achievement – just like running a 42km marathon would we also create a great amount of reward hormones, beta-endorphins in natural birth and in a marathon.
Similarly, it is thought that the baby is receiving epigenetic changes during labour, that the contractions may be triggering, switching on or off certain reflexes.
There are a number of other advantages that vaginal birth allows for, including:
- Shorter recovery times and often less time spent in hospital
- Less need for pain relief after birth
- Better chance of breastfeeding your baby straight away
- More physically able to care for your baby (and other children) straight after birth
- Physically able to do other tasks soon after birth, for example driving or walking upstairs
Whether you know you are going to have a caesarean, remember that it always might be an option, so it’s important that you take the time to prepare yourself consciously, and enter into the experience with as little fear as possible. Remember, it is not how our babies are born, but who we are being at the time, that is transmitted through to them and is, therefore, most important.
Every birth is beautiful and ultimately it is not how our babies are born and you can still have a loving, connected and oxytocin filled caesarean section. She Births® is about every birth being beautiful, and every woman feeling proud!