Laboring Before a C-Section is Not Wasted Effort

Many women worry about the prospect of going in for unplanned C-section but as it turns out, there are some surprising benefits that come with the procedure.

Laboring Before a C-Section is Not Wasted Effort Scott Dumas/Shutterstock

The desire to avoid a C-section delivery is not at all uncommon—in fact, many of the medical experts we speak with caution against lifestyle factors or choices that can up a woman's chances of cesarean delivery. But according to a recent study, not all C-sections are created equal.

Scottish researchers looked at first-time births that were carried to full term over a 15-year period for the paper, published in the Journal of American Medical Associates. They also tracked the long-term health of the babies in order to learn more.

Planned vs. unplanned

The findings may surprise you: researchers found a link between planned C-sections and complications (like asthma, obesity, diabetes) later in life. However, those who were born via unplanned C-sections (when the mother had already started labor) showed fewer health problems later in life than those born in planned C-section situations.

Even the research team was surprised by this finding. After all, one might assume that a planned C-section would yield better results, thanks to the controlled circumstances under which they are conducted—but if this research is any indication, that doesn't seem to be the case. "Our thinking was: If a baby is born naturally, it comes into contact with bacteria from the mother, which might help with immune system development," lead researcher Mairead Black told the New York Times.

Laboring naturally

Another expert explained why the outcomes with unplanned C-sections might differ from those associated with planned C-sections. "When you don't wait for labor to begin on its own, you cut short all kinds of physiological changes and preparations for birth that are taking place toward the end of pregnancy," Carol Sakala, the director of the nonprofit Childbirth Connection programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families, said, according to the New York Times. "What is the effect of cutting off those processes so casually on such a large scale?"

It seems as though women who do begin labor are at an advantage—even if they end up giving birth via C-section: That incredibly difficult process of labor might start infants off on a healthier note.

But despite the discrepancy between different types of C-sections, it's important to remember that complications can always arise—and that C-sections do appear to be riskier than vaginal births overall. But for women who must give birth via emergency or unplanned C-section procedures, let this news be a souce of comfort.