VBAC vs. C-Section | The Differences
Every woman experiences labour and birth differently, even each labour and birth differs with the same person. There are risks and benefits for the mother as well as the baby. This is my story: how I fought to have my vbac.
I have two daughters, and both of their labour and births were very different compared to each other. I’ve always strongly believed, and still do, that a vaginal birth is the way to go for me. It’s the most ideal for both mother and baby. However, you can’t beat fate, I suppose. I was induced with my first baby and ended up having an emergency c-section. Things definitely did not go as planned.
Disclaimer: This is just my story and what worked out for me. The information provided here should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult with your own physcian or healthcare worker.
Fast-forward two years later, where I got pregnant with my second daughter. This time, I was given the choice between a repeat c-section or a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). In the back of my mind, I had already decided to definitely go for a natural birth. However, I still went for my consultation and listened to the pros and cons of both ways. I had a healthy, complication-free pregnancy, so I thought why not a VBAC? Fortunately, I did successfully have a natural birth after a c-section. So here are the differences I experienced between a c-section and a VBAC.
C-SECTION – LABOUR
When I was pregnant for the first time, it did not even cross my mind once that I might have a cesarean, which is why it came as a shock when it did actually turn out that way. I read everything that you could possibly read about pregnancy and birth; except c-section. I don’t know why that happened. I suppose it’s human nature to think “that will never happen to me” until it does.
My pregnancy went smoothly as I ticked off everything until it came to labour. The days went by. So I waited and waited. Nothing. My body was not progressing. I don’t think it even started. So after 10 days, I had to be induced. Then, 12 hours after my induction, I went into labour, and my contractions were soon a minute apart, giving me barely any time to recover from the last one. Now, I wish someone told me that labour pains after an induction are worse than the real thing.
I can actually say this, as I’ve also experienced natural contractions with my second labour. I was in excruciating pain, and labour had barely started! My water had to be broken, which again, ouch, to say the least. My gas and air did not work for me too, maybe because I was in too much pain and too tensed for me to actually focus on my breathing. Things just got worse from here. My baby’s heart rate kept dropping, and there was no option but to undergo an emergency c-section. I was only 2 cm dilated, so it was impossible to wait it out any longer. Also, in comparison, it’s ridiculous being in that much pain with just being 2 cm dilated. Induction you say, thanks, but no thanks.
C-SECTION – RECOVERY
I was pretty naive about the whole procedure. Of course, because I never read anything c-section related! The operation went so fast, and before I knew it, my baby was born. What just happened? At first, you don’t feel anything from the waist down, until the anaesthesia works off. It was weird, your legs feel so heavy. Once that wears off, the pain that hits you from your abdominal wound is unreal.
I found the recovery in combination with a newborn baby to take care of pretty hard. The hardest thing for me was sitting up at night to breastfeed. It was so painful to go from lying to sitting position. As it hurt a lot to sit back (ironically, everyone kept telling me to relax and lie down), I found it easier to move around, and keep myself busy. I highly recommend that. I feel that it sped up my recovery a lot faster. Being sedentary does not help you whatsoever. Now, I am not saying you should be up on your feet immediately to do housework, however, stretch your legs and a little walk to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea will do you better. Trust me.
VBAC – LABOUR
I’m not even going to lie. I had this emotional need to have my natural birth. A crazy hope to experience a normal delivery; my water never broke, I never went into labour naturally, or had that push your baby out experience. So I did everything I physically could to put me in a favourable position for a natural vaginal birth. Your chances of having a natural birth after a c-section are significantly higher (70-75%) with the following factors:
- You have a healthy low-risk pregnancy, without complications.
- You have a low horizontal scar.
- You go into labour on your own at term time.
In order to have a low-risk pregnancy without complications, I tried to maintain healthy habits in terms of eating as well as exercising in moderation. I did what I physically could, and anything else was in God’s hands.
In my last month, when it got closer to my due date, I started prepping mentally and physically for labour.
- You need to be in a positive mindset throughout your pregnancy. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you don’t have confidence in your own abilities.
- Next, I planned for a natural, medication-free labour. This means no epidural and no induction. A c-section birth is more likely to happen when drugs are involved. You don’t know how things are going to go beforehand but believe in yourself first. You don’t know how strong you are until you’re in a situation where you’re pushed to your limits.
- Labour at home as long as possible. As a VBAC patient, you tend to be monitored more closely. This will lead to interventions too quickly, instead of just letting things progress naturally.
- Red Raspberry Leaf Tea helps strengthen and tone the uterus, which will result in stronger and better contractions. A stronger uterus = less chance of uterine rupture. Personally, I only started drinking RRL tea in my last month before I was due. I started drinking 1 cup a day and increased to 3 cups a day until my due date. I never had any natural contractions in my first pregnancy. I like to believe that the red raspberry leaf tea definitely played a factor, as I started developing contractions from 38 weeks until I gave birth almost 3 weeks later.
- Dates (the fruit) are your best friend! Some research has shown that women who eat 6 dates a day in the last 4 weeks prior to their due date were more dilated, go into labour naturally, have an increased cervical ripening and a shorter first phase labour. This all sounds promising, but how true is this you might think? I religiously ate my dates. When I got my sweep done at 40 weeks, my midwife commented on how soft my cervix was, and said that I was very favourable for a vbac. 6 days later I had my baby. Vaginal birth with just gas and air, and no epidural! Also maybe worth mentioning, for a first time vaginal birth (but second pregnancy) I ended up with a first-degree tear (skin tear, rather than muscle). It’s so important to listen to your body when you’re pushing, and not at others telling you when to push.
VBAC – RECOVERY
I found the recovery after my vbac so much easier! Especially after having just a first-degree tear, the discomfort was minimal and lasted up to a week. Before I knew it, I could sit comfortably without cringing with every movement. The tear healed pretty quickly and the stitches were dissolved.
I left the hospital less than 24 hours after I gave birth. The difference in recovery was night and day. I could hardly stand up straight after my c-section and now I could easily get up and go the bathroom by myself an hour after birth!
If you’ve reached up to here, thank you! This was a pretty lengthy post. However, I hope it will be of benefit to anyone interested in the differences between a c-section and a vbac. Please note that these are just my experiences, and what has worked personally for me. Every person is different, so do discuss any medical decisions with your healthcare provider before trying anything new.
I would love to hear about your experiences. Have you had a c-section, a vbac or both? How did it go for you? Or are you doubting what to choose next?