C-section vs vaginal delivery? Whatever you decide, is the choice still yours?

c-section vs vaginal delivery

By: Natasha Archary

c-section vs vaginal delivery

I listened intently to the discussion between Mapaseka Mokwele and Dr. Mpume Simelane, on C-section vs vaginal delivery recently. Home with Mapaseka opened the lines for Afropolitans to share their birthing stories and the responses were alarming.


A majority of the callers felt they had no choice in the matter, with doctors forcing their preferences onto the unsuspecting mothers. Some felt a vaginal delivery meant a woman had passed the right of passage to become a mother, there was no other option. This is how generations of women have been brought up. To embrace the notion that a c-section means you’ve failed in your role as a woman.


It is this misinformation that factors into a woman’s decision, deterring her from choosing the breakthrough in medical intervention.


The biggest decision you’ll ever make 

My decision to have an elective caesarean, like Mapaseka, came instinctively the minute I discovered I was pregnant in 2013. My decision was not based on any pre-existing medical condition, nor the status of my baby’s health. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go through a vaginal delivery.


Was this me taking the easy way out? With recovery from a c-section taking up to two months, let me assure you, a c-section is not the easier, pain-free option. My experience was not as pleasant as some of the callers. I felt the entire procedure to be traumatic and did little to promote mother and child skin-to-skin bonding.

C-Section vs vaginal delivery

Similar to a vaginal birth with an epidural, a c-section requires a mother to be completely numb from the diaphragm down. Administering an epidural, requires a needle, 9cm long to be inserted into a woman’s spinal cord. The anesthesiologist will do everything to convince you that you won’t feel it, but feel it you will. Regardless of the smaller needle that will be used to numb the area before the epi is in.


I cringe as I recall the feeling of the numbing medication coursing through my body. Being wide awake during a surgery is a terrifying ordeal, numb though you are. There you are, exposed to all hospital staff like a spatchcock chicken, waiting to be basted with a marinade of iodine solution.


Lying on a steel operating table in a freezing theatre was not how I expected to bring my son into the world. Unlike some of the callers who had to resort to a c-section after hours of labour and the baby in distress, I didn’t experience a single contraction. It was the way I wanted it. Do I feel like I missed an important milestone as a woman?


Not in the least. I had accepted that pushing an entire baby out of my vagina was not for me. It’s a decision that every mother is entitled to make.

C-section vs vaginal birth

Exploiting the system?

But the question of whether gynaecologists are exploiting the system and forcing their patients to have a c-section continually popped up. According to 2017 statistics from Actuarial Society of South Africa, a vaginal delivery saw the average OBGYN claiming under R 5000 as opposed to a c-section delivery which amounted to R 7500.


The R 2500 difference is aside from the medical costs at a standard private hospital. For a vaginal birth in 2017, hospital costs came in at just under R 17K. Whilst a c-section was anywhere between twenty-five and R 30K.


Sure, the figures definitely add up but one has to consider that a number of things could go wrong with a vaginal birth. From the baby losing air-supply being stuck in the birthing canal, the umbilical cord being tangled around his neck, the heartbeat dropping, mom bleeding out, a breach position and the list can go on. Doctors and hospitals may therefore be pro c-section to avoid possible legal cases should something go wrong with a vaginal birth.


This is not to say that a c-section comes without any risks. But the procedure has been streamlined, improved and perfected over the years, so much so that women can have more than two babies via a c-section. There are even cases were women can have a vaginal birth after a c-section birth, also known as VBAC.


With the incision from a c-section no longer running vertically from the belly button down, the 6 to 8cm horizontal c-section cut now runs exactly on your bikini line. The scar is barely noticeable if it heals without any infection.


Women should stop the birthing comparisons and instead focus on the fact that they are moms, however you brought your baby into the world. As long as you have a healthy, happy baby, marvel at all that your body was able to accomplish. From incubating your precious bundle, to bringing them into the world and then nourishing them. Mothers are incredible, c-section warrior or vaginal delivery queen, both equally incredible.



If you missed the show, listen to the in-depth conversation here:

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