My son was born by caesarean section, although my wife and I really wanted our son born vaginally. My wife's friend has had two successful vaginal births. She wants the third child to be born by caesarean section. This is just because delivery by caesarean section is simple.

This situation makes me very curious about what the differences actually are between a child who was delivered vaginally and a child delivered by caesarean section. I heard from others that children from vaginal births have more resilient bodies and are smarter than children who were born by caesarean section.

Are these claims scientifically proven? Are there really any differences? Good references would be helpful.


5 Answers 5


While there are a wide range of articles about the benefits of vaginal birth, which appear to include better expulsion of fluid from the lungs, better immune response in childhood and so on, there doesn't seem to be any definite medical proof. Have a look at this unresolved question over on Skeptics.

There doesn't appear to be any indication that children born through vaginal childbirth are any smarter, either. After the initial childhood stages it doesn't appear to be possible to identify which individuals were Caesarian or natural.

Caesarian sections do have a major effect on the mother, however - major abdominal surgery means the mother can't lift things, drive, or even move easily for many weeks.

  • 6
    Don't forget that C-sections can also mean that the baby's head isn't mashed by passage through the birth canal, that the mother has much lower risk of episiotomy, and it can save the life of the mother and/or baby in the event of a problematic birth.
    – mmr
    Jul 25, 2012 at 13:38
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    Anecdotal: when we were debating this issue with the gynaecologist for our first, he opined that if men gave birth there would only ever by Caesarian sections.
    – Benjol
    Jul 26, 2012 at 12:57
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    @Benjol: Har har. That is a silly joke because it does not make any sense at all. A large portion of pregnant women desire a natural birth; even those who already are mothers. Jul 26, 2012 at 13:42
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    @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun, I think he was implying that men's resistance to pain is vastly inferior to women's, though that's probably a question for skeptics.SE...
    – Benjol
    Jul 26, 2012 at 13:46
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    @RoryAlsop - since the pain level of birth is completely different for every woman, it's a reasonable metric for your wife's experience only.
    – justkt
    Jul 26, 2012 at 18:49

Just as with any surgery, there are risks. Vaginal birth should be preferred, cesarean when needed (risks of vaginal birth outweigh risks of surgery).

Perpetuating the myth that C-section babies are dumber and weaker than babies born vaginally is harmful to mothers. Cesareans save lives. Mothers don't need any more guilt.


In the sense that both methods' outcome is a happy, healthy mom and baby, the difference is none.

Babies who are born vaginally receive crucial beneficial bacteria from their mother's birth canal that are necessary to populate the gut. This could explain why there is growing evidence that babies born via c-section are more likely to develop asthma and allergies. Here is a link to an article that describes research on the topic.

A C-section I suppose is easier in the delivery room, but you pay the price during recovery. So, a child who is born vaginally has the advantage of a mother who will be on her feet sooner (not to say c-section mom's are lazy or neglectful or anything like that, please don't infer that meaning! Its a MAJOR surgery-anyone would need time to recover, even tough-as-nails females of our species.) Pain medication is also required after a major surgery like that, and they all have side effects on the baby (if a mother is nursing).

  • It really feels like your first sentence contradicts the rest of your post. Dec 24, 2014 at 16:33
  • @EkoostikMartin the first sentence is not contradictory. I was referring not to the immediate outcome, but to the longer term outcome. Many women feel a sense of failure or guilt if they can't, for whatever reason, deliver vaginally. So, the first sentence also serves as a statement of neutrality so as not to further compound those feelings if they exist in any potential readers of this post.
    – Jax
    Dec 24, 2014 at 19:45

I believe there are more factors to the health and intelligence of children than the way they arrive in this world. I personally was one of those mothers that wanted to be like every other woman and have a normal delivery, but my body is a carrier, not a deliverer. It was emotionally hard facing the fact that I would never be able to experience a normal delivery. However, I did experience the joy of delivering a new life, 6 times, by c-section. My children were very healthy and seldom had to visit the doctor’s office except for regular check-ups and they continue to be healthy. My oldest graduated with a 4.0 from college and my youngest is graduating from high school with a 3.9 grade point average. They both did it on their own and have also tutored other students.


There is recent evidence from U of NC Chapel Hill that about a quarter of babies born vaginally have varying degrees of brain bleeds. It’s not obvious whether these affect the baby’s motor skills or cause any developmental delays. There are other studies that have shown elective C section babies—ones who could have been born vaginally—to have higher IQs. However, IQ levels tend to even out when parents’ education levels are taken into account...(one explanation may be more educated and, therefore, wealthier parents can afford elective C sections.) there is also a study from Melbourne Australia that says Csection babies are about 35 days behind their counterparts once they hit elementary school. But I don’t know if they equalize for whether there were other complications during birth, whether the children were breastfed, etc. also there is a study from Yale that says that vaginally delivered MICE have higher rates of a certain protein. Though the correlation between this protein and IQ is not well established, nor is this proven to be the case in humans

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    Hi! Welcome to the site. We love citations to research here - but please link to the studies you’re citing! Thanks!
    – Joe
    Feb 12, 2020 at 12:21

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