In 2014, about one-third of pregnant women in the United States gave birth by C-section, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Usually a woman is granted the power to choose how she wants to deliver her baby, so why opt for a surgical procedure over a natural birth, or vice versa? Obviously, there are many pros and cons to each delivery method.

"The important message is that both [vaginal and C-section births] are safe," Katherine Economy, MD, MPH, a maternal fetal medicine specialist in the department of OB/GYN at Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School, told WebMD. "But it's also important to keep in mind that if you compare a vaginal [birth] that goes well and a C-section that goes well, a vaginal [birth] is still far safer."

Health concerns could cause a doctor to recommend either natural or C-section births, but how does each delivery method affect the mother and baby? The following information was compiled from Dr. Roy Ayalon, MD and Women's Healthcare Topics.

Natural Birth Pros

  • Shorter recovery time and hospital stay

  • Feels more natural for the mother, sometimes giving women a great sense of empowerment and accomplishment

  • The baby’s risks decrease for many health issues — including certain respiratory problems, persistent pulmonary hypertension, asthma, food allergies and lactose intolerance

  • Labor may be shorter and move along quicker with future births

  • Babies are able to breastfeed sooner

  • Speeds up the bonding process

Natural Birth Cons

  • Unforeseen complications can occur during labor and delivery

  • Your baby faces the risk of oxygen deprivation and could experience physical trauma while passing through the birth canal

  • Mothers have higher rates of urinary incontinence (urine leaks)

C-Section Pros

  • Mothers don’t have to endure long hours of labor and can usually schedule when they want to give birth

  • Women are at decreased risk for pelvic floor injury and birth trauma

  • Avoid post-term pregnancies

  • A baby’s risk of being infected with the mother’s STD or infection is greatly reduced

C-Section Cons

  • Surgical risks and complications from anesthesia

  • Women are at increased risk for serious health complications (like heart attacks, blood clots and postpartum infection) after a cesarean delivery

  • Babies are at higher risk for persistent pulmonary hypertension

  • Some mothers who have C-sections will not have the option of vaginal birth in the future due to risk of abdominal tears from pushing

Read more:

C-Section Has Improved With Modern Medicine, But Women And Children Still Face Risks: 6 Things To Know

Women Having Natural Birth At Home May Be OK If There Were No Major Risk Factors During Pregnancy