For centuries women birthed vaginally and today, there are still many vaginal birth benefits for both women and their babies, despite changes in birth practices due to modern technology,.
Ongoing scientific research is uncovering more and more vaginal birth benefits that were previously unknown, proving over and over that nature’s way is still the best - a natural, intervention-free, vaginal birth is the safest, most practical and advantageous way for giving birth to a baby.
Babies born naturally are usually born when they are ready. Elective caesareans typically take place a week or two before the expected due date. However, many babies if left to be born naturally are born at 41 or 42 weeks. If there was any miscalculation, a baby removed surgically could be at risk for prematurity and encounter respiratory problems as a result of under-developed lungs.
Babies born by vaginal birth have considerable lower risk of respiratory problems. The compression of the baby’s thorax expels the amniotic fluid during the birth process and helps to prepare the lungs to breathe air. There is a high risk of respiratory distress syndrome in babies born by cesarean and a high risk of asthma.1
The passage through the birth canal stimulates the baby’s cardiovascular system, which boosts blood circulation and primes the baby for birth. There is evidence that this process also has long term benefits for the baby’s co-ordination. Cranial osteopaths are reported to be able to determine whether a baby was born vaginally or by caesarean.
Babies born vaginally receive protective bacteria as they pass through the birth canal. These bacteria colonise in the intestine and are crucial for developing a balanced immune system, from childhood right through to adulthood.2
During a natural, vaginal birth babies benefit from hormonal surges in catecholamines during labor, which results in them being more alert and able to connect with their mothers at birth.3
Similarly, endorphins, nature’s ‘feel-good hormones, which are secreted during an unmedicated childbirth have been found in the placenta and umbilical cord. These hormones may help the baby adjust to life outside the womb as well as make the birth passage more comfortable for baby.
Babies born by vaginal birth exhibit more interest in pre-breastfeeding behaviours such as sucking and massaging the mother's breasts. They are also reported to nurse for longer periods within the first 90 minutes after birth, which has many benefits for both the mother and the baby.
A European study in 2008 found that babies born vaginally had a 20% lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes than babies born surgically.
The process of labor is reported to enable babies born vaginally to cope with stress better than those born dramatically by cesarean. Cesarean birth triggers a dramatic stress response which could set up a child to always over-respond to stress.4
If the vaginal birth was drug-free, the baby will not experience any side-effects of medication administered during the process.
Skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby can occur easily after a natural birth. This has many physiological benefits to the baby including optimal brain development as well as better attachment and breastfeeding success.
Newborns are less likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit if delivered vaginally.
Quick recovery -The recovery from a natural vaginal birth is almost immediate. Generally, a mother can stand up and care for herself and her baby without assistance. Within days she can be attending to her family, taking care of other responsibilities and driving as usual.
Shorter hospital stays - If the birth was in a hospital, the mother can be discharged soon after the birth. This has financial benefits.
Vaginal births are cost-effective.
After a successful vaginal birth mothers feel empowered emotionally and enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
Vaginal birth has lower maternal mortality rates than caesarean birth.
There is no risk of complications in future births due to previous surgical damage.
No risk of post-operative infections or complications.
Refer to Risks of Cesarean.
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1. CC Buhimschi, MD and I.A Buhimschi, MD, Advantages of Vaginal Delivery, Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume 49, Number 1, 167-183
2. Professor Patricia Conway, of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of NSW
3. Hannah Dahlen, Australian College of Midwives
4. Hannah Dahlen, Australian College of Midwives
5. CC Buhimschi, MD and I.A Buhimschi, MD, Advantages of Vaginal Delivery, Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume 49, Number 1, 167-183
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