Whether you're pregnant for the first time or are already a parent, what kind of birth you want is a big decision—one that everyone and their cat seems to have an opinion about. The greatest divide, if you spend any time on parenting forums, appears to be over the two ends of the birth choice spectrum: the all-natural delivery versus a scheduled C-section. Yet, when it comes down to it, the ideal birth wish lists of the two sides have a lot in common.
An intervention-free birth
It's not only natural birthers who are aiming for a birth free from potentially traumatic interventions like forceps, ventouse, episiotomy and an emergency C-section. Women who want a planned C-section from the outset are also highly motivated by a wish to avoid the trauma that can come from those interventions. Plus, both groups are likely would-be experts on the stats and risks, having done a lot of reading around the subject, talked to other parents and given their choice months of thought.
A pain-free birth
Although it can seem like suffering is supposed to be part of the deal and natural births are more accepting of that, the two sides’ goals are often really about managing expected pain. C-sections obviously come with spinal anesthesia built in and, hopefully, well-managed pain relief afterward. But pain management is a feature of planning a natural birth, too, and might come from anything from mindfulness and techniques learned on a hypnobirthing course to deciding to get an epidural in the end.
We all want our birth experience to be special and to feel like a superwoman. Whatever kind of birth you have, you’re entitled to that.
A speedy physical recovery
If a natural delivery goes according to plan, with no interventions or tearing, the fact that you can be walking out of hospital hours later is a huge boon. C-sections need a longer recovery, but everyone hopes they’ll be out of hospital as soon as possible—three nights is standard—and living life more or less as normal in under two weeks. I went out for lunch four days after my first C-section—proof it can be done!
A beautiful, empowering delivery
We all want our birth experience to be special and to feel like a superwoman. Whatever kind of birth you have, you’re entitled to that, from a quick, easy labor to a 40-hour marathon or an operation that slices through layers of skin and muscle. A natural delivery might feel more “earth-mother” while a planned C-section can be calm and precise, but both camps are equally focussed on the beauty and empowerment of having the birth experience they’ve chosen. Both are also hoping to start their lives with their new babies free of post-natal trauma or depression, which studies suggest are more likely to follow negative birth experiences. It seems likely that whatever kind of birth you choose, having that choice respected is healthy—no matter whether it’s vaginal or surgical.
The first moments holding your newborn are what the pregnancy and the birth have been about, so it’s not a surprise that forum discussions often focus on how soon you’ll get that precious skin-to-skin moment. C-section parents might worry about not getting it, but there’s no reason everyone shouldn’t be cradling their baby straight after birth, though the exact procedures vary from hospital to hospital.
Of course, ultimately, we all have the same biggest wish for the birth: Every parent-to-be wants a safe delivery for both mother and baby.
With so much in common, maybe we don't need to take sides at all.