This is not an article about emergency c-section. It is an article addressing why moms are electing c-section as their birth plan. Why are moms electing major surgery over a natural process their bodies are meant to experience?
There seems to be a consensus that a c-section birth is convenient, whether for the doctor or for the mom undergoing the surgery.
I have had the conversation(s) with the doctor(s). Not as a writer, but as a patient. I have sat across from that doctor who looked at his schedule and did his best to fit me in.
Am I missing something here? Isn't birth supposed to be determined by a combination of involuntary signals between mother and baby? And what do these involuntary signals trigger in both the mother and the baby? Any chance labor and childbirth is good for both mom and baby and preventing this process from happening may not be the best idea, even for convenience?
Ok, that was a little sarcastic. But my point is, why are we trying to avoid going into labor by scheduling an unnecessary intervention?
Please let me be blunt for a moment. Recovery from c-section is decidedly inconvenient. Referring strictly to the pain, it disrupts the natural course of things between mother and baby. The surgery itself prevents the release of oxytocin, a hormone which is released during labor and softens the traumatic experience of childbirth and gives moms that happy feeling for a year! No, that's not scientific, but it's my experience.
The difference between life in the year after c-section and life in the year after vaginal is disturbing. <-- PLEASE READ THAT AGAIN.
It is decidedly inconvenient that c-section recovery is not just physical. As I mentioned above, the year after a c-section is without a doubt one of the hardest years I've ever experienced in my life. Again, I've experienced this three times.
That's right. Thousands of women are "choosing" repeat c-section because it is an implied requirement. Hospitals have started requiring women who have already had one c-section, to have another. In fact, this is so common, that most c-section moms already know, "once a c-section, always a c-section," before they even leave the hospital.
Let me clarify something, though. A hospital or a doctor cannot force you to have a c-section. They even have you sign documentation in the form of "consent" to establish this. This means you sign your name, acknowleging that the hospital is not forcing you to choose c-section. When you sign that consent form, you have elected to have voluntary, unnecessary (not an emergency) surgery.
Why, then, does it seem like you don't have a choice?
You have to give consent for a doctor to perform surgery on you. And many hospitals are refusing service to moms who refuse to consent. This consent is generally required upon registration. I have definitely had many a heated argument with registration over this. I did not want to consent to c-section because I DID NOT WANT C-SECTIONS.
In the end, they always got me. And in the end, ultimately, even though it was elective, voluntary, unnecessary surgery, it was always "my choice" ... supposedly.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard a woman be thankful for the option of a c-section because she felt self conscious about giving birth. It sounds outrageous, but unfortunately, this is the world we live in.
There should be no shame or feelings of embarrassment surrounding natural childbirth. But this is another way to get women to agree that scheduling the surgical birth of their child is better than letting the baby come naturally.
They Don't Know Any Better
When we sign up for a c-section, we are given a list of possible complications buried in stacks of paperwork, although those possible complications are generally not thoroughly gone over and explained as they should be.
As horrific as that is, chances of a surgical mistake is not likely. The physical and mental effects of major surgery as well as the consequences of major interference with a natural function, both that of the mother and the baby, are widely accepted as normal and most times not mentioned at all.
Many life long side effects of c-section are not only not mentioned, either verbally or in writing, they are not even generally acknowledged. How can a mother be expected to make the best decision for her and her child if she doesn't have all of the information?
Before I get to some of the side effects linked to c-section, let's talk about the difference between natural childbirth and a c-section.
The Stages of Natural Vaginal Childbirth
There are three stages of natural child birth.
Stage one involves early labor, active labor and transition beginning with the onset of uterine contractions and ending with full dilation of the cervix. For some women, this will begin with or include sometime in this stage, what is generally referred to as her water breaking. This happens when the amniotic sack containing the baby bursts. This may or may not happen. It is not uncommon for doctors to "break your water" to "speed things up," another unnecessary medical intervention.
Stage two involves pushing and the birth of your baby. This when your baby descends down the birth canal and is born.
During this stage of natural childbirth one extremely important thing happens that does not happen during a c-section and that is your baby's entire body is exposed to your friendly bacteria inside the birth canal and on your skin immediately following birth.
Stage three is delivery of the placenta.
The Stages of Elective C-Section Birth
Unlike natural childbirth, there aren't any stages to go through other then preparing for major surgery when opting for a c-section delivery.
First, as mentioned you are prepped for surgery. This includes no food or drink for at least twelve hours prior, being hooked up to IV fluids, having your lower abdomen and upper pubic area shaved and administering of anesthesia.
Second, an incision is made in your lower abdomen that will go through all layers of skin, fat, muscle and your uterus until access to the baby is gained. Your baby is pulled out through this incision.
Third, your placenta is pulled out through the incision and you are internally repaired and stitched up and your external incision is stitched or staples closed.
And finally, recovery, during which time you are instructed to lift nothing heavier than the baby. Complete recovery takes about twelve weeks.
Important Differences Between Natural Childbirth and C-Section
During natural childbirth your body releases a mixture of hormones that greatly benefit mom in recovery and in the year following childbirth. A scheduled c-section situation prevents all of the natural processes including release of hormones helpful in promoting the mom/baby bond, production of milk, and along with many other positive effects the reduced likelihood of developing postpartum depression.
Your baby's microbiome is colonized very shortly after birth. What type of bacteria colonizes your baby's microbiome is entirely dependent on what type of bacteria he or she is exposed. Ideally, he/she will be exposed to the bacteria in your birth canal and then on your skin. In the case of a c-section, your baby's first exposure to bacteria are whatever microbes can survive in the sterile environment of an operating room, followed by whatever is in the water he/she is bathed in.
My Two Cents
Due to my experience with one natural birth, one emergency c-section, two forced elective c-sections and one VBAC, I can tell you that there is a difference, postpartum. The years following c-section were not even comparable to the years following natural childbirth when it came to the over all difficulty with recovery and acclimating to life with a new baby. To say that life after c-section was a struggle is an understatement.
I experienced an extraordinary amount of postpartum pain due to surgeons pulling and pulling on an incision cut to accommodate a nine pound baby when I was delivering an eleven pound baby. The pain of recovery from c-section compared to natural childbirth is also not comparable.
And two of my three c-section babies developed allergies, one of them life threatening to nuts and shellfish.
I wouldn't have known what I know about any of this had I not been faced with the consequences of elective c-section so many years later.
I hope you are able to learn from my mistakes.