Labour & Delivery

Cesarean VS. Natural Birth, From Someone Who Had Both

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When the midwives at Assunta saw my previous C-section scar and then expressed surprise that I was attempting a natural birth, I knew it was time to worry. My doctor, you see, had assured me that although I’d had a C-section less than two years ago (due to my son being breech and the presence of two fibroid tumors in the womb which had to be removed post baby), I had a 90% chance of delivering naturally the second time around. Ninety percent sounded good and normal. But the truth was I didn’t know anyone who had successfully given birth both ways, so naturally when the most experienced midwives I’d ever met seemed shocked, I panicked.

Of course everything went fine, and by fine, I mean that I have a birth story so traumatic that I’m unable to share it with anyone who hasn’t had a baby yet, for fear of unfairly influencing them to never go through a natural birth, or getting pregnant for that matter. This particular article is not about that (and in fact the window of opportunity for hearing about that has closed, as it just became too traumatic for me to even talk about!) This article is to answer a question I get asked a lot when women (usually childless) ask when they find out I’ve had both a C-section and a natural birth: “Which one would your recommend?”

This is one tough question, but as you read, please bear in mind that I’m just sharing my opinion based on my personal experience and that my views don’t in any way reflect those of anyone else related or otherwise. I’ll also safely assume that we all know natural births are universally seen as the best way to bring a child into this world, with a surgical birth as the last-resort. And although elective C-sections are on the rise, a good obstetrician is supposed to do everything he can to lower the risk of a Cesarean.

Now I’d read a lot about having a natural birth and it all sounded so beautiful and most importantly manageable. On the flip side, everything I’d read about C-section births was scary – it is after all a major abdominal surgery. So yes, medical science implores me to write that a natural birth is the way to go. But if we’re friends, I’m going to strongly suggest you to go for a C-section. I know this is probably going to shock many women out there and that I’ve reached the point of blasphemy in the mommy-world, but let me be real here – both my babies came out strong and healthy, but if I could do the second one again, I’d opt for another C-section.

The fact that the natural birth was far more painful than the C-section, of course plays a huge role in my controversial recommendation, but there’s more to it. Yes, get an epidural and then remember to get them to turn it up when needed (don’t make the mistake I did and assume they will just know when), but also lower your expectations. If you’re like me and have heard a series of supernatural pain-free birth stories, you’re going to be hugely disappointed the moment you realise things may not exactly pan out the way for you during labor.

Putting the pain factor aside however, I was most troubled by how invasive and violated I felt throughout my 17-hour-long labor. It would seem a C-section would be more disturbing as it involves actually going inside your body, but I simply didn’t suffer the same emotional shock I felt during my natural birth (with assisted dilation and water-bag-bursting by the doctor and midwives). I felt completely out of control during my natural birth, and I actually wondered more than once why I was subjecting myself to this when I could clearly recall a C-section being so much easier.

Perhaps having had a pleasant C-section experience affected my natural birth; simply knowing what the alternative felt like. I preferred my C-section because I loved knowing what the plan was, and feeling safe in the hands of my doctor throughout the process. I appreciated the sense of calm and control, and knowing what was going to happen when.

I’m well aware that many women do deliver naturally in a very serene, pleasant way so I fully advocate praying for a wonderful experience yourself; it just didn’t work out that way for me. Ultimately the pros and cons for both have been extensively researched, and I highly doubt I’m the only mom who believes C-sections are the better choice. Anyway, the 90% worked out for me in the end, and although I wouldn’t exactly say I regret having gone through a natural birth the second time, I can very safely say there will NEVER be a third time!

Michelle Lim-Chua is a mum of two and a copywriter with a special interest in sociology. Born in New York City and raised across six different countries, Michelle loves traveling and is naturally curious about people and their cultures. She moved to Malaysia more than seven years ago, found God and fell in love with a boy from Melaka. Michelle is still learning, along with her husband, how to be a good parent.