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What are the benefits of a vaginal birth?

Nadine Richardson
Created on Oct 04, 2023 · 3 mins read

Every birth is beautiful and no matter how your baby comes into the world, ultimately that day is a celebration and a story you will remember and tell forever! Understanding how a vaginal birth is different from a c-section (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 pathway for you and your baby, and if that is not possible then work towards, what is the next most optimal.

In order to facilitate some of the wonderful hormones, allowing for even a short experience of labour is a great idea. From a hormonal perspective, trialling labour before an emergency c-section is preferred over a scheduled c-section for the following reason…

1. 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 tends to create an easier bond and initiate breastfeeding. With a c-section, unless mum has experienced some natural labour (without an epidural which also interferes with hormonal orchestration) we don’t gain these high oxytocic 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 experiences post-surgery eg. difficulty in twisting, sitting up and potentially picking up a baby.

Neuroscience is now starting to explore the effects of oxytocin levels and endorphins in new mums (and partners) showing that it creates a new way of thinking, called matrescence.

During labour there is an actual ‘meltdown’ and rewiring going on, that continues postpartum. This not only allows us to be more readily responsive as carers but also changes how we think about ourselves, the world, and our role within it.

2. Microbiome

In the third trimester, the mother’s gut flora leaks into the birth canal and creates a completely unique lacto-bacillus. 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 by correlation, not causation there is a lot of discussion about the lack of good microbiome seeding.

Other benefits of vaginal birth are more esoteric and not grounded in evidence but I suppose found through many of the proud mums out there who feel incredibly strong and resilient after labour, just like you would feel after running an arduous marathon.

I believe that Nature has created a very intense and challenging rite of passage through childbirth. It is designed to be difficult so as to bring about a great sense of achievement – just like running 42 kilometres would create a high amount of reward hormones and beta-endorphins, natural birth can also give you a big runner’s high.

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 and long term
  • 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

Even in natural labour a c-section is always an option, so it’s important that you take the time to prepare yourself consciously for any outcome. We must enter into any birth experience with as little fear as possible. Remember, it is not how our babies are born, but who we are being at the time.

At She Births® we believe every birth is beautiful and no matter how our babies are born we can still create a loving, connected and oxytocin filled experience for them and us. The perfect beginning.

She Births® is the world’s only scientifically verified childbirth education. We have courses that prepare families for the most natural birth possible, as well as a beautiful belly birth.

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