Bringing a child into the world is a wonderful thing, but the actual birthing part? Not something many pregnant women like to think about in the early days.
As we get bigger and the due date gets closer it’s inevitable that we start to worry about how painful giving birth is and begin weighing up our options around how to give birth.
C-Section or vaginal delivery? Which is going to hurt the most?
There’s going to be pain with both but either way, there are pain relieving options. There is also the knowledge that millions of women go through childbirth every year and you won’t be any different.
Aside from that, it’s important to realize that if you’re scared of giving birth, you’re not alone.
It’s a totally normal thought to have once you have a child inside your womb – the idea of actually getting said child out is bound to be worrisome.
Depending on where you live you may have total freedom to choose how you give birth, namely a vaginal birth or a C-section.
Some women make a birth plan beforehand but it’s also important to realize that in the heat of the moment a doctor may advise a change to that plan for the health and safety of you and your unborn child.
In that case? You have to roll with the punches.
So, now we’ve reassured you that your fears of pushing a child out of your nether regions is normal, we need to compare the two ways of actually achieving the final aim.
Let’s discuss, is a C-section more painful than a vaginal birth? Or, is it the other way around?
Firstly, let’s explore each one.
How Painful is a C-Section?
A C-section can be planned or it can be done as an emergency. Some reasons for planning a C-section could be because of a C-section in the last pregnancy, because of a multiple pregnancy, i.e. twins or more, or because of some other medical issue, such as high blood pressure.
There is also the issue of a baby being in the wrong position just prior to birth, e.g. not head down, and in that case, if the baby doesn’t turn, a C-section will normally be planned.
Emergency reasons could be because the baby is in distress, or that the labor is not progressing fast enough.
Whilst a C-section is a very common procedure, we can’t forget the fact that it is a form of very invasive surgery. At the end of the day, an incision is being made and a baby is being removed from your uterus.
That is a serious surgical procedure.
That statement is there to worry you, it’s just to give you a very real idea of what a C-section is. Of course, you will be anesthetized during the procedure, so you won’t feel pain at the time.
Once the anesthetic has worn off, you will be extremely sore and you will need to take it easy in terms of moving around because of that incision.
Anything that requires you to use your stomach muscles will be painful such as walking around, moving, sitting or standing up, lifting or turning over in bed.
So, in terms of pain, it’s fair to say that a C-section is not painful at the time of birth, but afterwards, it is. It also comes with more potential complications.
You will also have to stay in the hospital longer, usually an average of two to four days. There is the risk of infection and other problems, such as injury to the bladder or bowel if the procedure is done quickly e.g. in an emergency.
Overall, a C-section can take up to two months to recover from completely and you will be in a lot of pain for several weeks after birth as your wound heals.
How Painful is a Vaginal Birth?
Most expectant mothers want a vaginal birth because there is this thought process that it is the way you’re ‘supposed’ to give birth.
That is an unfair statement in many ways, because yes, you are giving birth in the most natural of ways, but if you do need to have a C-section, you are doing whatever you need to do in order to secure your baby’s safety and health – which is what any mother would do.
A vaginal birth can be quick or it can be long, it totally depends on what Mother Nature has planned.
Of course, a vaginal birth is hard work, it is physically demanding, and yes, it is painful. If you choose to, there are several analgesic options you can make use of to help you during the process and to relieve some of the pain.
Aside from the pain that a vaginal birth will inevitably bring, there are some upsides.
Firstly, a vaginal birth will require a much shorter hospital stay, and the recovery process afterwards will be faster than that experienced with a C-section.
If everything goes smoothly you’ll find you’re in very little pain afterwards. It’s more of a sore bruised feeling in your vagina that lasts a few days.
One thing that can cause a lot of pain after a vaginal birth is stitches. You may need to have stitches if you experience a tear or need an episiotomy (a cut at the opening of your vagina) and these take 1-2 weeks to heal.
Which Method of Birth is More Painful?
The answer is that generally, a C-section is more painful than a vaginal birth in terms of the length of time you’re in pain. Though if you need stitches you will be in pain for longer than a vaginal birth without them (but usually still less so than a cesarean section).
We all have different pain thresholds and we all have different birth experiences. Neither option is a picnic, but when you think about what you get at the end of it, surely it puts it in perspective?
At the end of the day, you have to do what you think is best for you and your baby.