C-section Vs. Vaginal Delivery

Updated on July 14, 2008
H.B. asks from Edmonds, WA
9 answers

Hi, I posted a couple weeks ago about my pregnancy when I found out my baby is in a transverse position. Thanks for all the responses and advice! I'm visiting a chiropractor now who does the Webster method and hoping he'll turn on his own in the next couple weeks. If not, I would have a c-section scheduled for 3 weeks from now.

I've had two babies already and had very straightforward, uncomplicated vaginal births. With my first I had a little tear and a few stitches that hurt for a few days to heal, and with my second nothing, and I felt great after about 2 days - honestly the most painful thing was probably the IV insertion point.

So my question is, what should I expect from a c-section recovery? Has anyone had both vaginal and c-section deliveries, and how would you compare them? How much help will I need, when will I be able to be back to normal activity, etc? Obviously I'm hoping to avoid a c/s, but also trying to be prepared for the possibility.

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answers from Seattle on

My first was a long but uncomplicated vaginal delivery. My second was a c-section at 39 weeks due to being breech. I can say honestly that despite the recovery I preferred the c-section.

It was weird and very hard at first to walk because you have little control of your ab muscles, and at first you're not supposed to lift anything but the baby, which is sometimes hard. You'll need steady help for the first week or two. My three year old was actually a huge help, and I milked daddy for help for weeks! The hardest things were laughing, coughing, and sneezing, make sure you're holding a pillow against your tummy when you do!

You're not supposed to drive for two weeks but I felt like I could long before that, although I didn't because I'm a rule follower. Everyone heals at different rates, I healed very fast, but always have from any surgery, injury, or birth. Six months later the incision site is still tender to the touch and it still hurts just a tiny bit to sneeze or cough forcefully, only when I'm lying fown though. Let me know if you have any more questions! We're all thinking about you! :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I have had 2 of each. The recovery for a c-section is harder. What I really didn't like is that I could not feel my legs after the c-section. I really wanted to get up and movee. Because of the surgery you can't really do anything without hurting, coughing, laughing, sitting up etc. are all hard. It too me about a week to get back to being able to do it all. But I really push myself to get back in the swing of things. But some people take 3-6 weeks. I also hated the fact that I did not remember much of the day the baby was born, all doped up.

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answers from Eugene on

The only experience on childbirth is the c-section. Having a c-section is major surgery. I didn't realize how big of a deal it was until afterwards. I would suggest doing what the doctors tell you to do and follow the rules. Your body is healing from the inside and out and it just takes time to heal. If you do something to soon you can potentially tear internally and do some damage. You are not suppose to drive for two weeks. You'd be surprised what muscles you use to drive. You are not suppose to lift more than 10 pounds for a couple of weeks too except baby - He/She is the exception. You tend to stay at the hospital for 3 days after a c-section. They want to make sure that you are doing ok and moving around the way you are suppose to. After one day they had me up out of bed and walking a lap around the hallway. I may have had to do two in that day. But they do have you walking in about a day after to get the circulation going. I don't remember when they took the cathider out. (Surprisingly the cathider didn't hurt - I was petrified of the thing.....) You will be very sore for awhile. But our bodies are such amazing healers. One thing I would definately suggest - TAKE THE GAS PILLS.....Oh my goodness - after the surgery - the gas pills will help with the bloating and being uncomfortable. Remember how I said that c-sections is a major surgery - the doctors are cutting through many many layers of our body and opening us up and that allows air to get trapped....so the gas pills truely help. I didn't have a bowl movement for a long time either - which is fine and normal between the anestitia and the stool softeners. Believe me you don't want a bowl movement anytime soon anyway. When I left the hospital, they gave me a bag with big people diapers and such...and also this plastic bottle that you fill up with warm water and spray down below to help wash off since you can't bend over very well....

When I was on leave - my work gave me 8 weeks for recovery - because of the healing process. Just take it easy and slow. Take all the help you can get - because you will need it. Don't over do it either - because you will pay for it in the end and elongate the healing process.

When I was pregnant - I was completely against the c-section, I was going to be the almighty natural woman and well.....it obviously didn't happen. It's ok. Just because you may have a c-section - you still gave birth to a baby that you created and made. And if you are planning to breastfeed - don't worry - your milk will come in. I was really worried about that - and the milk came in rather quickly without any problems.

I hope this helps. It's scary - very scary. But we are a very strong and we make it through a lot of tough stuff. Just remember to breath. Hugs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Hi H.,

I'm a L&D nurse and have had 4 c-sections myself. The first 3, I labored long and the last one I just scheduled it. I recovered quickly from each one - and to tell you the truth, I'm very glad to have had c-sections. I can tolerated abdominal pain much better than pain in my perineum. I have seen some vaginal deliveries that are far worse than any c-section and the problems that then arise from that can go on and on.

I don't know where you're delivering, but some places you can have Duramorph in the epidural/spinal. It is a wonderful pain control method - it is a long acting morphine that really helps. You don't get the sleeping/knocked out feeling like you do when you take IV or IM medications. Toradol is also a great drug. It is like ibuprofen that we give IV for the first 24 hours. It really helps. The problem is that not all places have these methods as pain control options. You can ask your provider about these.

Everyone one is different, too. Some people can't get out of bed for hours after a vaginal delivery and some c-section patients never take pain med (incredible, but true). We all bring our life experiences with us and that can affect how we feel and react to pain.

Having a scheduled C-section is probably less tiring than laboring and then having a C-section. You can be rested and your body hasn't already gone through a marathon. That's not always the case as there can be complications but in general the women that have scheduled c-sections are not as sleep deprived.

You can nurse the baby right after surgery, the nurses will help with positioning. Alot of the discomfort and side effects immediately post-op depend on what type of anesthesia you received.

I can tell you from my experience, I was up and walking within 6 hours of surgery, outside taking walks at 3 days, and basically doing too much because I felt fine. I wouldn't recommend that as I ended up with complications later (infections with 3 of the surgeries and a blood clot with another). It is important to try to rest as you have to remember that it is major surgery and your body needs to recover.

Hopefully your baby will turn, but if not, a C-section is much better than a chaotic, stressful, vaginal delivery.

Good luck,


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I've not given birth either way but I've had several abdominal surgeries. They are painful. I've heard it said that abdominal surgery is the most painful of all surgeries. I've also had lung surgery and was surprised to find that recovery from the lung surgery was much easier.

I want to comment on the importance of doing as the doctor says. For example the reason you are advised not to drive for a certain period of time has less to do with you and how you feel. You can tear stitches if you're in an accident or have to stop suddenly. At first it's not safe to drive because of the anesthesia. Depending on which anesthesia they use it may take several weeks for it's effects that hinder driving to be completely gone.

It is more difficult to walk until the incision heals. I wanted to want to lean forward but leaning forward will cause other difficulties.

Length of time for recovery does depend a lot on the person and location and size of incision. My doctors told me with general anesthesia to not expect to be totally recovered for 6-8 months. I found that to be true.

I was off work for 4-6 weeks and then felt reasonably able to handle most anything but I still felt tired and had less resilience than before the surgeries.

I hope that your little one turns around. I saw both of my grandchildren born vaginally and they do seem quite painful. However I think the pain goes away quicker.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Ive had 2 c sections, 1st was emergency and second was scheduled. BUt with the first one I milked it for all its worth and took forever to heal. THe second one healed quickly and was not to painful. I just went back to normal life, and took it a bit easy if i got sore. But i was on my own day 3 and was in a wedding day 10.



answers from Portland on

I just had to reply!... I have had all 3 babes with c sections, no real complaints, just a little advice. The first was after 28 hours of hard labor, then distress, and baby stuck so emergency. The next one, scheduled on due date, and actually went into labor 4 hours prior to schedule. That was hard, as doctor was not available so they went ahead and gave me the epidural to make me comfy. I was extrememly dehydrated, unbeknownst to me. DRINK LOTS OF WATER BEFOREHAND, days leading up to it! My blood pressure dropped to danger level and I felt very sick. They had to monitor me and pump me full of fluids and medicate me with what would not happened had I been properly hydrated. This made the surgery more complicated and I was woozy and kinda out of it. The last one, scheduled for 8 am. Perfect! Well rested (as good as you can get at 9 months), walked into the surgery room, had the epidural/spinal, don't remember which. They cut me open, pulled her out and wala! Done. Now, for advice, prepare your little ones now, meaning to practice not picking them up. Sit down in the chair or couch, have them crawl up in your lap. That way you are not actually picking them up, but you can still have snuggle time. Very important. Plus, if you are ready before the baby comes and they are already used to crawling on your lap, it won't be just one more transition for them to deal with. Remember, you should NOT be lifting them, only the baby. If you have to lift the 2 year old in or out of the crib, have someone there for the fist couple weeks. VERY IMPORTANT! My husband would leave for work after the babes were all awake, that way I would have one less lift to perform. This was AFTER the first couple weeks that my mom, then his mom stayed to help out. Also, I did take the meds for pain and got extrememly constipated. Little did I know with the first two, you can request an enema. Sounds gross, but beleive me, the relief is SSSSOOOOOOOOOO worth it. I actually said I would not leave the hospital with the 3rd until they gave me one. Then, I took Senekot, all natural laxative at bed time and had very normal movements from then out. I did have to drive after a couple weeks, just because I couldn't rely on help after that. Hopefully, you don't have a stick shift? One more word, I used the phrase, "Mommy's hands are busy" whenever I was busy and couldn't tend to them immediately. I was used to saying it, they were used to hearing it and when the new baby came, they didn't have to hear, "Mommy has to feed, change, etc the baby". My kids are all about a year apart and have never had jealousy issues. Maybe it's because the oldest was only 27 months when his baby sister joined he and his one year old brother so there was never an issue of sharing me. It's just the way it's always been, they have never known anything else. Have fun! I love my 3rd and joyful little girl! :)



answers from Spokane on


I had a c section with my son last year&It was painful.But the really bad pain only lasted for 2 weeks with me.I was still pretty uncomfortable for about 3 more weeks...but no extreme pain like the first 2 weeks.

It is very important to listen to your DR&the nurses when they say to take it easy&DON'T do any heavy lifting....bad idea(I tried, and boy did that hurt....lol!)

And also,if your DR prescribes you pain medication...take it when you hurt really bad....you want to be as comfortable as possible with your new baby:)And you can still breastfeed...talk to your DR or midwife.....my DR&the nursing staff all assured me it was safe where I had my boy:)

Good luck&Congrats!!!




answers from Seattle on

I recently had an emergency c-section with my son 11 weeks ago due to a complete placenta previa. This came as a surprise to us since my 22 month old was born vaginaly with no complications. I came to the conclusion that both ways of delivery just stink when it comes to recovery! Both took me about a week to get semi back to normal. Much of the recovery process after a c-section is the same just with the added incision which I would say is more annoying than painful. The hardest thing was dealing with my toddler who wanted to be entertained which was difficult for me to do so while I was recovering. It is true what they say about the c-section recovery if you are up and on your feet than you recover faster. So I hope you dont have to undergo a c-section but if you do everything should be fine!


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