Assisted Delivery vs C Section – What’s the Difference?

Katie GriffinNatural Hospital Birth, Online Childbirth Classes for Natural Birth

assisted delivery vs c section

You’ve likely heard of assisted delivery and c sections, but what’s the difference between the two? Let’s discuss assisted delivery vs c section.

What is an assisted delivery?

An assisted delivery is when baby is assisted down the birth canal by the use of a vacuum extraction or forceps. It is also known as an instrumental birth. An assisted delivery is still a vaginal birth. Assisted delivery is used if mom has been pushing for an extended period of time and needs help to encourage the baby to descend through the birth canal.  An assisted delivery may also be attempted if baby is in distress and needs to be born more rapidly than mom is able to push on her own.

Assisted delivery – What are forceps?

Forceps are large metal tongs used in an assisted delivery.  They are insterted up into the vagina and wrap around the baby’s head.  The provider applies gentle downward pressure as mom pushes.  Forceps are large, and an episotomy must be cut in mom’s perineum in order for the forceps to fit into the vaginal opening.

Assisted delivery – What is vacuum extraction?

In vacuum extraction, a device much like a suction cup with a cord attached, is placed up through the vagina and onto baby’s head.  At this point, vacuum-induced traction is applied and baby is guided down the birth canal.

Assisted Delivery vs C Section:

PROS of Assisted Delivery:

  • An assisted delivery can often be done more quickly than a c section
  • Baby still gets the benefits that accompany vaginal birth
  • Mom avoids the risks of a cesarean birth, including excessive bleeding and infection

CONS of Assisted Delivery:

  • Greater risk of injury to the anus and the perineum (the area between the anus and the vagina)
  • Risk of damage to the baby’s facial and cranial nerves
  • Greater risk to the baby’s scalp

What is a C Section?

assisted delivery vs c section - cesarean birth
A c section, also known as a cesarean birth, is a surgical procedure used to delivery the baby.   An incision made in mom’s abdomen and uterus, and baby is removed through the incision.  In the case of certain health complications, a provider may recommend scheduling a c section before mom goes into labor. Unplanned c sections may be performed during labor if mom or baby are in distress and the baby is not yet in the birth canal. A c section is more likely in a high-risk situation and when the cervix has not fully dilated or baby’s head had not entered the pelvis.

Assisted Delivery vs C Section:

PROS of C Section:

  • Provides a safer mode of delivery for babies that are unable to descend past the pelvis
  • May be connected with a reduction in urinary incontinence — unintentional peeing

CONS of C Section:

  • Greater risk of infection, blood loss, blood clots, and other adverse effects from surgery
  • Trauma to abdominal tissue and risk of harm to organs surrounding the uterus, such as the bladder and bowels
  • Longer and often more challenging recovery after baby is born due to incision

Learn more about assisted delivery vs c section by taking in a high-quality natural childbirth class.  As you understand the risks and benefits of these labor interventions, you’ll be empowered to make informed choices during your birth.

Kopa Birth’s online birthing classes allow you to prepare for a natural hospital birth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class and start preparing for your natural birth!


American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists.  (2016, February).  Retrieved from

American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists.  (2015, May).  Retrieved from

American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.  (2014, March).  ACOG/SMFM Obstetric Care Concensus: Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery.  Obstetrics & Gynecology.

O’Mahony, F., Hofmeyr, G.J., Menon, V. (2010).  Choice of instruments for assisted vaginal delivery. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 11.  Art. No.:  CD005455.