Home Birth Series - Part 3; The Hidden Facts about C-Sections
I felt it necessary to call out the cesarean in my quest to create a diverse Birth Series. I've always had a love/hate relationship with the c-section. If it weren't for C-sections, I wouldn't be alive as I was delivered via an emergency one. I understand their importance and their necessity for those babies whose lives depends on it. However, I don't think that enough women look at the facts surrounding a c-section before they decide to electively schedule one and I wanted to delve into exactly what happens when you decide to get one.
First off, a little history, as you know I love to start at the beginning. Up until the 17th century, c-sections were known as 'cesarean operations' and were usually only performed to retrieve a fetus from a dead or dying mother. It wasn't until the 19th century that preserving the mother's life was even a possibility. Even then, some of the most successful cesarean operations were done in rural areas where professional medical advice couldn't be given. Hospitals at the time were super gross and patients were more likely to get an infection from unclean doctors. There were instances of more success rates around the world such as Uganda, where in 1879 a cesarean done by a healer was so precise and such a success that the witness could only conclude it had been done many times before with the same results. Here in the west though, more and more women were dying from the operation, mostly due to lack of knowledge of the surgeons performing them - check out my post on early birth practices to see why doctors were such nincompoops.
Now to look at the present. One of the most prevalent birth interventions is a C-Section - 32% of all births in the US are C-sections which you might not think is high until you realize that the US has one of the highest C-secition rates, much higher than the 10%-15% recommend by the World Health Organization (WHO). C-sections are scheduled with the casualness of scheduling a haircut but it's a major surgery and one that the WHO recommends against unless medically necessary due to the complications that arise from them to both the mother and baby. Doctors turn to C-sections for a lot of reasons but most aren't medically necessary. Unreliable medical equipment such as fetal monitors and ultrasounds give false cause for alarm. A doctors fear of being sued creates an atmosphere of "defensive medicine" - doctors are coming from a place of fear about birth as opposed to a place of understanding and trust. As a mother, when a medical professional is telling you that your baby is going to die if you don't do something, you do that something! It's unfortunate to use a baby as a pawn but it's incredibly easy to do. Doctors are rarely at fault because they have the advantage of saying that it could have been a much worse outcome had they not intervened. Plus a healthy baby tends to put rose colored glasses on the mother.
Apparently mothers were much more fashion forward in the 17th and 18th centuries, opting for full dress and bonnets as opposed to those thin paper hospital gowns. ;)
If you think a c-section is an easier way to deliver baby - think again. In fact, having a c-section presents it's own unique risks. Recovery time is much longer and you have a harder time with movement. A mother may experience increased blood loss or infection and she must consider whether or not she will have future children via c-section. VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) are on the rise but most mothers have to search hard to find a doctor that won't flat out refuse a VBAC as an option. Babies born via c-section have greater risks as well. They don't pick up helpful bacteria in the birth canal, which can lead to asthma, allergies, and obesity. There is also a risk of not being able to bond with baby as well - skin to skin isn't as prevalent in c-sections (but if your baby is healthy, you can absolutely request that your baby be placed on you right after delivery!) It has also been found that c-section babies have a harder time establishing breastfeeding. This can be attributed to medications used during the operation as well as valuable time spent away from the mother directly after birth.
Sometimes a C-section has to happen, that's just a fact of birth and there's no judgement if you elect to have one - at least now you have the facts. Childbirth is terrifying and a c-section might seem like the less scary option because in the US, we conditioned women to think that but the fact is a c-section should only be used as a last resort, emergency procedure. If a c-section is necessary, there are ways to make it a more positive experience from having your partner cut the cord or requesting a mirror so you can see the action to listening to music and using all those breathing techniques you learned in birth class.
This is the time where I encourage you to follow your heart. My opinions are not your opinions but facts are facts. If you choose to have a c-section, talk to your care provider! Set up meal deliveries and a very attentive support net for after the operation. Prepare yourself with breastfeeding knowledge and know the warning signs of an infant experiencing breathing issues. As always, I'm an advocate for safe birth and for finding out information, doing the research, and asking the tough questions!
What are your thoughts on a c-section? If you scheduled yours, what factors attributed to that decision?