Vaginal Birth Benefits For Baby & Mother
While not always a choice for some, here are 9 surprising and awe-inspiring benefits of a vaginal birth.
Brave, beautiful mamas, we salute you. Whether you welcomed your baby into the world in your bathtub at home or you waited nervously for your precious bundle to be lifted over the surgical drape after a C-section, you are just as courageous and inspiring.
But with nearly one-third of babies in the U.S. now being born via cesarean – more than twice the rate recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – major medical organizations are working hard to reduce the rate of preventable C-sections.
While there are certainly cases in which a cesarean is necessary for the safety of the mother or the child – such as prolonged labor, abnormal fetal heart rate and problems with the placenta – there are many more cases in which this major surgery could be avoided.
If you have a low-risk pregnancy, your baby is in the head-down position and you’re at least 37 weeks pregnant, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends attempting a vaginal birth. Even women who have had a previous cesarean and those who are expecting twins are encouraged to try to deliver vaginally if the conditions are right and their obstetrician gives them the green light.
But what’s so great about all that huffing and puffing and grunting and pushing, anyway? Below, we’ve outlined the main benefits of natural delivery.
9 Benefits of Vaginal Birth
Here are 9 benefits of a vaginal birth for you and your baby:
- Your baby will receive beneficial bacteria.
- You’ll squeeze fluid out of your baby’s lungs.
- Your hospital stay will be shorter and your recovery time will be faster.
- You’ll avoid the risks of major surgery.
- You’ll be more likely to engage in early breastfeeding.
- You’ll be less likely to have complications in future pregnancies.
- You’ll decrease your child’s risk of childhood asthma and obesity.
- You’ll be less likely to suffer from subsequent fertility problems.
- You’ll save money.
Let’s take a closer look at these benefits of natural birth.
1. Your baby will receive beneficial bacteria.
As your baby passes through your birth canal, it ingests bacteria that contributes to its gut health and boosts its immune system. Although a baby’s microbiome – or collection of microbes – begins to form in the womb, vaginal delivery is an essential part of the process.
Some studies have found that babies born by C-section who miss out on these crucial bacteria are more susceptible to health problems such as food allergies, asthma, hay fever and obesity later in life. Researchers from the Department of Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine were successful in partially restoring the microbiome of C-section babies by exposing them to their mothers’ birth canal bacteria at birth, but it remains to be seen whether it will have a long-term impact on their health.
2. You’ll squeeze fluid out of your baby’s lungs.
While your baby is in the womb, its lungs are filled with fluid. Hormonal changes that occur during labor start to clear the fluid, and much of the rest is squeezed out as your baby passes through your birth canal. Any remaining fluid is coughed out after the birth or absorbed by your baby’s body.
When fluid remains in the lungs or is cleared out too slowly – a condition known as transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN) – breathing problems can occur and oxygen might be required. Babies born via C-section are at higher risk for TTN.
3. Your hospital stay will be shorter and your recovery time will be faster.
You should expect to stay in the hospital for 24 to 48 hours after an uncomplicated vaginal delivery and two to four days after a cesarean. While you should avoid any strenuous activity for six weeks after a vaginal birth to allow your body to heal, you should be able to perform your regular daily tasks within a couple of days.
Because a C-section is a major abdominal surgery, recovery is longer and more difficult. You should rest as much as possible and avoid any heavy lifting or driving a car for the first six weeks. It can take six to 10 weeks for your scar to fully heal.
4. You’ll avoid the risks of major surgery.
All major surgeries carry risks, including a bad reaction to the anesthesia, infection, hemorrhaging and blood clots. There are also additional risks with a cesarean, such as inflammation of the uterus, surgical injury to the bowel or bladder, and amniotic fluid embolism (when amniotic fluid enters the mother’s bloodstream and can cause a serious reaction).
5. You’ll be more likely to engage in early breastfeeding.
According to the WHO’s review of current research, early breastfeeding (within the first hour after birth) increases the likelihood that a baby will be breastfed exclusively from one to four months as well as the overall duration of breastfeeding. Because of the well-documented benefits of colostrum (“first milk”) and breastfeeding in general, the WHO recommends that breastfeeding be initiated as soon as possible after birth.
A review of 53 international studies conducted in 2012 found that rates of early breastfeeding are lower after cesarean than after vaginal delivery.
6. You’ll be less likely to have life-threatening complications in future pregnancies.
A major review of 80 studies published in PLOS Medicine in 2018 found that women who gave birth via cesarean had an increased risk of serious complications in subsequent pregnancies, including miscarriage, stillbirth, problems with the placenta (placenta previa, placenta accreta and placental abruption) and uterine rupture (a tear in the wall of the uterus).
7. You’ll decrease your child’s risk of childhood asthma and obesity.
The same review found that C-section delivery increases the risk of childhood asthma by 21 percent and childhood obesity by 59 percent compared to vaginal delivery.
8. You’ll be less likely to suffer from subsequent fertility problems.
The PLOS Medicine review also concluded that women who delivered via cesarean were more likely to suffer from subfertility and have trouble conceiving in the future (43 percent) than women who delivered vaginally (32 percent).
9. You’ll save money.
Nonprofit organization FAIR Health estimates that the average C-section in the U.S. will set you back $16,907 while the average vaginal birth costs nearly 30 percent less at $12,290.
Preparing for a Vaginal Birth Recovery
When planning for a vaginal birth, you’ll also want to be prepared for the postpartum recovery time. Read what happens to the body after natural childbirth, as well as our tips on recovery after birth.
Explore some of our popular postpartum support products, which include: