I’ve had so many friends ask me this question… what was the difference between a c-section and a vaginal delivery?
If you got a little weirded out that I just used the word “vaginal” this post might not be for you 😉 Just know that you have been warned before venturing forward…
Each pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experience is so different, so my experiences might not match yours, but I know that for me, reading different stories gives me insight and, when in the right context, a healthy comparison. Many of you have emailed me stating that you were grateful that I had shared my pregnancy experience with placenta previa, so that spurred me on to write this post comparing my deliveries. And honestly, I wish that I would have been able to find some more honest delivery and recovery blogs while I was pregnant, especially with my first.
For starters, I had two very standard, “normal” pregnancies and vaginal deliveries with my girls in 2012 and 2014 (you can read Nora’s birth story here and Andersyn’s birth story here). I was induced with both deliveries: with Nora I was induced for low amniotic fluid and 39 weeks with Cytotec, and with Andersyn I was induced for a previous fast labor and fearful of not making it to the hospital in time at 39 weeks and was induced by breaking my water accompanied by Pitocin. I had epidurals with both deliveries that both took beautifully. My labors were 5 hours and 3 hours, respectively. Honestly, my labors with the girls were fast and a breeze. Deacon’s birth story was also fast, but scary and intense. I had to have a c-section to deliver him (alive) and for my own safety because of the placement of my placenta, so I did NOT choose to have the c-section; a lot of people have asked me if it was an elective surgery. My answer is a resounding, “No!”
Just a few minutes after Nora’s birth, September 2012
The main difference between my labors (besides how they came out, ha!) was the recovery. With a vaginal delivery, my lady parts seem to have had a school bus driven through them (sorry TMI, but that was the best way I could put it), but the recovery time for me was much faster and less painful. I did have dissolvable stitches with my vaginal deliveries, both one degree tears; one from an episiotomy and another from an internal tear from a stuck shoulder 😐 . While swollen and “school bus driven,” I was able to get up and walk around with in an hour after having my epidural removed. While sore and definitely uncomfortable, my pain was completely manageable with Tylenol 3 and Ibuprofen the first few days in the hospital, and by the time I went home I was only on Ibuprofen as needed. I was surprised at the amount of abdominal and hip soreness that I had from pushing! Every time I would pump or nurse, I would have horrendous cramps (if you’ve ever breastfed, you totally know what I’m talking about), but that only lasted the first week. Very simply put, my vaginal deliveries were quite average, but to me seemed much easier than my c-section.
Beautiful moments right after Andersyn was born, September 2014
With my c-section, I was able to have my spinal block and epidural removed a few hours after surgery. It took a little longer for the drugs to wear off, so I had to wait a bit longer to try and get up and move around. And when I did get up, oh boy…. it was just so painful. Now, I had never had surgery before this and have always thought that I had a pretty high pain tolerance. But in all reality, now I think I’m a wimp, ha! It was like nothing I had ever felt and wasn’t prepared for the sharp pains in my abdomen and hips. Some of the best advice I received was to take ALL the pain meds they give you while in the hospital and to be diligent about staying on top of your pain meds at home. I was on Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen (Norco made me super woozy) around the clock. I also took the advice given to me to wear a belly band. This was a GAME CHANGER for me, at the hospital and at home. Because I went into active labor with my placenta previa, I lost a lot of blood. Like, a lot. At my 6 week appointment with Dr. Friesen, he told me that Dr. Hatten who did my surgery had told him that I had lost a highly significant amount of blood and was surprised my hemoglobin hadn’t dropped further than it did (I started at 12.3 and dropped to 7.8 for all of my nursing friends out there). I was given the option to stay an extra day for a blood transfusion or go home on high dose iron, and chose the oral iron. In hindsight, I wish I would have taken the blood transfusion, as the dizziness and fatigue were absolutely overwhelming once I got home. Now my hemoglobin is back up to 12.8 and I’m feeling really great! My incision has healed well. I did have a few small spots open up after my steri strips came off (about 2 weeks after delivery) but they were superficial and did not get infected. I had internal dissolvable staples with my c-section and they have kept everything held together nicely 🙂 I now have a lovely purple scar just below my bikini line and it’s about 4 inches long. I won’t lie, I bawled the first time I got a good look at it. But Eric brought little Deacon over and held him up next to my scar and said, “Look, he came out of there! And wasn’t he worth it?” That changed my perspective in that moment, and I’m so grateful! I had quite a bit of swelling that went all the way up to my hips! It lasted about 3 weeks after my delivery. I had 4 bags of IV fluids in a very short amount of time compared to 1 bag with my other deliveries, so I think it just took my body longer to get rid of the extra fluid. Compression stockings were helpful, but only to a certain extent. Simply put, my c-section recovery was much harder than my vaginal deliveries. If given the choice if/when we have another baby, I will opt for a VBAC if I am able.
Holding our sweet boy, the morning after Deacon was born, February 2017
In the end, there were many things that were the same: the first pee and poop are terrifying, bleeding gets lighter over time, but increases when you over-do it, sex is also terrifying the first time after delivery, and baby weight does eventually come off, even if it doesn’t look like it.
But at the end of each of my deliveries, I had a healthy, beautiful baby. So no matter which way they came out, no matter what my recovery was like, they were all so worth it! I hope that my sharing these stories with you has been insightful and helpful! Like I said before, many of you have reached out with questions, so please feel free to shoot me a message or email if you have any! I know I have always been so grateful for people answering mine 🙂