12 Health Benefits of Vaginal Birth

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benefits of vaginal birth

Natural childbirth, also called vaginal birth, is a wonderful gift a mother can give herself and her child. Of course, some situations warranty a caesarian birth but when a pregnant mother has the comfort of choice, in most cases will, it is best done in favor of natural childbirth. In a caesarian section, also called C-section, the baby is delivered through a surgical incision in mother’s abdomen and uterus. There are many instances when a c-section is safer than a natural birth but they will typically occur when there are complications in the pregnancy. We firmly believe that when weighing up the pros and cons of natural birth vs c-section, you should consider the many health benefits of vaginal birth for both you and your baby.

health benefits vaginal birthWhen is c-section is safer than a natural birth

If you looked at just statistics to answer if a c-section is safer than a natural birth, you would never, ever have a c-section. Research shows that women are more than three times more likely to die from a c-section delivery than a vaginal birth.

However, don’t panic!

Elective c-sections are perfectly safe. These statistics are inflated by the fact that so many c-sections are emergency procedures where the risk of death from natural delivery was much higher. By performing a high-risk c-section, mortality rates from natural birth are reduced, and mortality rates from c-section are increased, distorting the stats.

But C-section is often necessary and is, therefore, safer than a natural birth in the following circumstances:

  • In case of previous C-section delivery
  • Surgeries undergone in the not so distant past
  • Twins or more to deliver
  • Placenta related issues like placental abruption and placenta previa
  • Baby is too big or in breech position
  • Fetal distress
  • Labor stalls
  • Uterine rupture
  • Mother’s medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and infection

Apart from certain cases in which C-section is planned in advance and in emergency situations where caesarian may be the only solution, it is best to go for natural childbirth.

Benefits of Vaginal Birth

Vaginal birth benefits the mom and her child immensely. Natural childbirth gives an indescribable sense of happiness to the mother as it involves her physical and mental efforts to bear the pain and deliver her baby. This is not to say c-section should be avoided as quite clearly there are instances when c-section is absolutely necessary. But if c-section is optional, then we believe you should consider the benefits of vaginal birth that you will be missing.

Important benefits of vaginal birth include:

  1. Seeds your baby’s gut bacteria

This is probably the least obvious but most important benefit of vaginal birth.

There is a huge amount of research into the health effects of unbalanced gut flora. Gut flora is the collective name for the trillions of microbes that inhabit the gut of every adult and changes in these bacteria have been linked to a huge range of diseases from auto immune conditions, psychological pathologies such as depression to even weight loss. Given the importance of healthy gut bacteria, adults quite rightly use both probiotics and prebiotics to maintain the balance and health of their gut bacteria.

But what has this to do with vaginal birth?

The simple answer is a lot! When all babies are born, their guts are sterile and after birth, bacteria immediately begin to colonize the gut. The composition of the bacterial colony is influenced by your baby’s first diet, sanitation, the method of delivery and the baby’s level of exposure to antibiotics. (1)

At this early stage, there is very little diversity to the baby’s intestinal gut flora but by the age of three, a child’s gut flora will closely resemble that of an adult.

It is vital for the child’s long-term health that the initial microbial colonization happens properly. Any manipulation of a child’s gut flora after the initial seeding stage may be too late to make any difference. Any intestinal flora imbalance in an adult (and the diseases that come from it) may have started while the adult was an infant.

Secretions from the vagina are packed with bacteria that give the baby a starter kit of microbes. The bacteria will closely resemble the mother’s gut bacteria composition. On the other hand, babies born by C-section are not immediately exposed to these bacteria, and analysis of babies gut bacteria who were born by c-section shows that their guts have been colonized by bacteria that are typically found only on skin. What’s more, this bacteria was not necessarily the same as the mothers. (2) If you think about what this means, it implies that the bacteria that initially colonize a c-section babies gut are picked up from the general hospital environment.

Not a pleasant thought.

Many new c-section moms, wise to the benefits of vaginal birth, are swabbing vaginal secretions on their newborns to seed the good bacteria from birth. This is a simple procedure that you or your surgeon can perform.

As a rule of thumb, all c-section moms should perform this procedure but there is a caveat. If you suffer from obesity or diabetes, your gut bacteria may well be unbalanced with several species of bad bacteria inhabiting your gut. If this is the case, the initial seeding of the baby’s gut bacteria may not be wise as you may inadvertently be setting your baby up with a poor quality gut microbiome from day one.

2. Freedom of Movement

Mother-to-be is the best person to understand the signals her body sends out. Following the signals and moving and changing positions as necessary can speed up delivery [3]. Pregnant women who are about to vaginally deliver can move in response to the pain thereby making the delivery easier. Women who undergo C-section delivery are deprived of such freedom as medical intervention prevent them from walking or changing positions.

3. Born When The Baby Is Ready

Having natural childbirth gives the baby the opportunity to come out when he/she is ready. Though C-sections, under normal conditions, are done when the child is fully developed, it does not necessarily mean that the child is ready to come out. Only in vaginal birth, the natural processes help the baby to come out when it is ready.

4. Experiencing The Ultimate Happiness

Yes, it pains and to say it pains is an absolute understatement. However, the pain is no match to the pleasure you are about to experience. You are with the process entirely; you have to help your baby come out to the world. It is going to take all the efforts you can put in and more. It sure is going to be exhausting, to say the least. Once you have vaginally delivered your baby there can be no words to express the sense of joy and accomplishment you will feel.

5. Speedy Recovery

Recovery after vaginal birth is quicker and hence mother and child can go home soon. Thanks to the speedy recovery, the mother can involve herself in regular activities sooner unlike in C-section birth where the healing time is longer [4].

6. Reduced Possibilities of C-Section Birth In Future

If the first delivery is natural, chances of C-section delivery for the next child is lesser. The mother is not only physically prepared but also mentally tuned to welcome her second child through natural birth.

7. Nil Post-Operative Risks

By opting for vaginal birth, you prevent post-operative risks including infection, bowel problems and the after effects of anesthesia. Those who had C-section deliveries may face health issues including urinary infection and anemia in the first 8 weeks following delivery [5].

8. Smooth Transition From Womb To Outside World

Nature takes great care of the baby by supporting the baby’s journey into the world. In vaginal birth, the respiratory function is boosted and blood sugar is regulated. Blood circulation to baby’s brain is also increased. Labor hormones produced in vaginal birth boost baby-mother attachment.

9. Early Breastfeeding

A very important advantage of vaginal birth is that it supports early and better breastfeeding [6]. Immediate breastfeeding has loads of benefits including enhancing the baby’s immunity. Breastfeeding within an hour of delivery ensures the child gets the first milk called colostrum, which is rich in nutrients and antibodies. A child that is breastfed within the first hour of birth gets to be breastfed for longer time. By breastfeeding within the hour helps mothers have increased lactation. Natural childbirth also enables immediate skin to skin contact with the mother, which helps the baby stay warm and also supports the baby’s heart and respiratory systems.

10. Reduced risk of postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is a very common condition that affects one in seven mothers according to the American Psychological Association [7]. Symptoms are varied but include

  • Feelings of inadequacy or guilt.
  • A lack of bond towards your baby.
  • Irritable and angry.
  • Numbness and emptiness.
  • Irregular sleeping patterns.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Many women experience some or all of the symptoms for a short period but this does not necessarily mean a serious condition has evolved and this commonly referred to as ‘baby blues’. If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression, you should seek medical help immediately as if left untreated can lead to psychosis, bringing both mother and baby into harm’s way.

However, when considering vaginal or c-section delivery, you should be aware of studies showing that instances of postpartum depression are lower when the baby is delivered by vaginal birth. It has been theorized that increased instances of postpartum depression are due to a decreased level of oxytocin, a hormone that is produced when in love and also during natural childbirth.

The studies, however, are not all conclusive, with some research showing no correlation. (8)

11. Higher responsiveness to you baby

A study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry looked at new mom’s receptiveness to their newborn babies cries by scanning the mother’s brain reaction using MRI scans.  (9)

The MRI scans showed that the moms who had delivered naturally had sections of the brain that were more active than the c-sections moms. These parts of the brain have been associated with emotions and parenting behavior. As such, it was concluded that new mothers are more responsive on average to their newborns if delivery is natural.

Again, it is thought that a deficiency of oxytocin, produces during natural birth, is responsible as oxytocin has been shown to be a factor in mother child bonding.

12. Reduced Lung Problems

The pressure created when the baby passes through the vagina aids in removing amniotic fluid in the baby’s lungs and clears blockages thereby greatly reducing the risk of respiratory conditions including allergy and asthma. C-section babies have a higher risk of developing asthmatic conditions owing to delayed gut colonization [10].

Given the benefits of vaginal birth, having a natural childbirth is what a mother should hope for. However, do not worry if medical intervention becomes necessary and you have a C-section delivery as the outcome is the same – you have your wonderful baby on your hands and what more could you ask for?

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