Can French Bulldogs Give Birth Naturally? Whelping Process

If you’ve got a French Bulldog that is pregnant and seemingly ready to pop, you’ll want to learn everything about the actual birthing (aka whelping) process. Find everything you want to know about giving birth, labor signs and possible complications in French Bulldogs below. 

Can French Bulldogs Give Birth Naturally? Yes, a French a Bulldog can give birth naturally, but it’s very rare for the actual whelping (formal term for giving birth in doggos) to be natural from start to finish. Frenchies are prone to a lot of complications and risks in giving birth, so many breeders will either opt for a cesarean section (c-section) or at least be ready to shift to one if a mom goes into labor naturally. Below, you’ll learn about why French Bulldogs have trouble giving birth, labor signs and details, the process of a c-section, and any complications you should know about with your Frenchie delivering her pups.

Why do French Bulldogs have trouble giving birth?

All things considered, French Bulldogs do often have trouble giving birth naturally. Purebred French Bulldogs are very specific and carefully bred, making them — essentially — a manmade dog breed. This is not a dog breed that ever could have existed without human interference. Not only does this refer to the overall design of the Frenchie body, but it also factors in the “survival of the fittest” principle.

A fairly sensitive breed, French Bulldogs are commonly thought to have a lot of difficulties throughout pregnancy as well as in delivering puppies. Due to the physical anatomy, French Bulldogs have a narrow birth canal. This means that delivering puppies through this birth canal is very challenging, to begin with. You’ll find that puppies’ heads and chests can often get stuck in the birth canal, creating long and painful labor for mom, and often complications that arise from that very same long and painful labor. 

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What should I know about a French Bulldog’s labor?

If you decide that you’d like to try a natural birth rather than necessarily plan a c-section, there are some things that you’ll want to keep in mind about the labor process.

The labor process for French Bulldogs is often long and, well, laborious. Since labor doesn’t come naturally to this breed, the labor itself is very taxing on the body. If your Frenchie does have a natural labor, you can settle in for a long day. Take a peek at this example of a Frenchie whelping naturally:

You’ll need to watch for possible complications that arise quickly and even subtly unless you are sitting and watching her directly (more on that later), so make sure that you put aside the time and attention to be at her side!  Your job is to be with her and make sure that she’s got the support she needs.

Signs of labor to watch for include a decrease in temperature as well as obvious discomfort. This includes scratching or digging her nest and panting and general restlessness as her body readies itself to deliver. If you do notice these signs, you’ll want to take away her food and water (though many don’t eat or drink anyway when they get close) just in case she does need surgery later in the process.

Possible complications giving birth naturally

There are quite a few possible complications to know about when it comes to your French Bulldog doing so naturally. These are listed below for you to know and prepare for.

Anasarca (swelling require c-section)

This is especially common in Frenchies, which are small dogs in terms of their body proportions with a belly full of puppies!  This is when there is a serious and severe swelling directly before giving birth. This can cause all sorts of complications with breathing and heart rate and also can be fatal to both mom and puppies. 

The puppy gets stuck

Even just the sound of that is terrifying!  But, a puppy getting stuck in a narrow birth canal is actually very common with French Bulldogs. This is happening if you not that she has been actively pushing for 20-30 minutes with no obvious signs of delivery. 


Similarly to getting stuck, this means that the puppy requires external support to help it gain access to the living world. This is typically a vet or someone experienced in births to help guide the puppy into the world safely. 

Even if you’re lucky in that your French Bulldog doesn’t actually have any of these complications, many other things should be monitored (including breathing and heart rate) during a birth. You should have a vet on-call or, even better, on-site to make sure everything goes smoothly

Do Frenchies have to have C sections?

No, Frenchies don’t necessarily have to have c-sections. They are physically capable of giving birth naturally. That being said, natural birth is often dangerous and potentially fatal to both mom and pups. When it comes to French Bulldogs giving birth, a c-section has many advantages.

You can know that all puppies were safely delivered

If you’re just getting into dog breeding or you have a Frenchie as a pet who falls pregnant and you aren’t used to it, you may find yourself dealing with a Mom who thinks she is done, but really isn’t!  Even if you get an ultrasound that says she has only 1 puppy, you may actually find out that you have 2 puppies. However, your fatigued momma decides that she is done and doesn’t pass her second puppy.

You guessed it. She effectively aborts her last puppy and this can lead to her much later passing a stillborn puppy at best, and dealing with a nasty and heartbreaking infection at worst. There’s something to be said for having a vet check her over in a c-section to ensure that all of her puppies are delivered with none left to pass away in utero. 

Your Frenchie’s uterus stays strong

Since labor is challenging on her body, the birth of 2 or 3 puppies can be very stressful on her uterus. If you are planning on having her deliver later litters of puppies, you may find that giving birth to a litter naturally prevents her from becoming safely pregnant or having a healthy pregnancy later.

Less stress on Mom

Again, labor is very challenging on her body. If she pushes out 2 or 3 puppies, she is well past exhausted and can be severely weakened for a long time after delivering her puppies. This means that you will need to care for her puppies and deal with a potentially sick and struggling mama, too!

What happens during a French Bulldog’s c-section?

If you’re considering opting for a c-section in your French Bulldog — a great idea in most cases — get familiar with what you can expect for the process. This will help you see whether or not it’s something you want to consider for your pregnant Frenchie. 

Mom is anesthetized

The first thing after she is prepped for surgery (shaved around her tummy) is to put her under anaesthesia. Since this is, all things considered, a very invasive surgery, the anaesthesia is not something you’ll want to skip!

Her uterus is cut open and the vet removes the puppies

A vet makes an incision in her uterus and beings to remove the puppies in their gestational sacs, leaving them intact if at all possible (just like they would be in case of natural birth).

The puppies are cleaned and stimulated

Vet assistants will remove the gestational sacs and clean the puppies off. They then have to imitate a momma by carefully stimulating a puppy. This stimulation is required to get them to breathe and officially join the world of the living!

The goal of a c-section, particularly with a potentially at-risk Frenchie (more on that later), is to keep it as short as possible to minimize the time that she needs to be under the anaesthesia. Typically, you can expect it to last anywhere from 45-90 minutes, though they’ll often have her under their care a few hours before and a few hours after to make sure she’s okay. 

Don’t forget that Mom is going to have to recover from her c-section, so you as her favorite human are going to have to take care of her newborn puppies while she does that. Plus, you’ll want to help her heal with the proper medications and rest instructions, too. 

Possible complications in a c-section

Just like giving birth naturally, a cesarean section can also have its own complications that you should be aware of. While they are, of course, much less than natural birth and they are watched over by an experienced vet and their supplies, they are something to be aware of. 

Lack of oxygen

As you may already know, French Bulldogs are brachycephalic. This flat face can lead them to breathing issues and this is no better exemplified than in a surgery where she is put under anaesthesia. Since oxygen is crucial for making sure that she can breathe while under (she is no longer able to voluntarily do so), it can be challenging for even experienced vets to make sure she is getting enough oxygen. 

Choking on vomit

Vomit is a common problem when a dog is under anaesthesia and with a dog who has breathing issues, this can be especially dangerous. They will often suffocate on their vomit much faster than an average dog, so stepping in and clearing it completely, immediately, is crucial.


There is a lot to know about French Bulldogs and giving birth. Whether you opt for a natural birth or for the safer c-section, this will help guide you in making the right choice for your Frenchie and her short- and long-term health.

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Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.