Do You REALLY Need That C-Section, Mama?
If you're with a group of moms and you start to talk about birth, you'll probably notice that some had their babies by c-section. You'll likely hear stories of emergencies, breech babies, big babies and even fetal distress. All very scary, for sure. But do all of these things warrant major abdominal surgery? I mean, caesarean sections were originally performed as a way to save a baby's life in extreme conditions.
What Does Julius Caesar Have to do With it?
Everyone thinks that Julius Caesar (the Roman dictator) was born by caesarean because his mother died during childbirth, but there's actually wide spread speculation that she was alive when he led the invasion of Britain. The truth is that babies have been born by c-section since the ancient times. Apparently Caesar had the procedure named after him because he declared that all women who were dead or dying during childbirth would have their babies surgically removed in an attempt to increase the population. Back then, C-sections were a last resort to save an infant but today things are much, much different!
In 1995, the Canadian rate for Cesareans was about 17%. In 2018, it was 28%. In the United States in 2018, the average rate for Cesareans was almost 33%.
The worst part about these stats is that the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that only 10-15% of all caesareans are really necessary.
Why Are More C-Sections Happening?
There’s a few reasons:
Women are having babies later in life which does put them in a bit of a higher risk category.
With the surge of fertility options available now, many women are experiencing high-risk pregnancies with more than one baby.
Human error: misreading a fetal heart monitor. (it happens: even doctors are only human!)
Unfortunately, inductions and epidurals are partly to blame. Women need mobility during childbirth to change the position of their pelvis (squatting can increase your pelvic size 30 percent!!) to give the baby room to turn and to use gravity to help the baby down the birth canal. When a women says yes to the drugs, she is committing herself to immobility. This increases her chances of experiencing interventions (forceps, anyone?) which makes her more likely to have a caesarean.
Sadly, another reality for the increase in caesarean birth is all on doctors: c-section are easier to schedule and they're worth more. It's not a secret that obstetricians make more money when they deliver a baby surgically. It’s just the facts.
There Are Very Good Reasons to Have a Cesarean Birth, Though.
- Anyone who has issues with their placenta (placenta previa)
- Certain birth defects that could make passing through the birth canal stressful or life-threatening for a mom or baby.
- Health conditions that may affect the mom’s ability to have a vaginal birth: things like really high blood pressure or active genital herpes.
If your Obstetrician is suggesting that you have a Cesarean because of:
an “estimated” big baby
a frank breech (bum first) position
because you had a previous C-section more than 2 years ago
…you may want to get a second opinion.
As a nurse, I can’t tell you how many “big for gestational age” babies I’ve seen born under 8 pounds who would probably have had no issues at all bombing down the birth canal!
While C-sections are a relatively safe surgical procedure, the risks of complications to your bladder and bowel and the risks of infection are higher than the small risk of uterine rupture from a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC- delivering a baby vaginally after you have had a C-Section).
As far as delivering a bum-first breech baby? Obstetricians are supported by their governing bodies to deliver breech babies vaginally whenever possible because it's less risky than having a caesarean birth. The problem is that they stopped delivering breech babies vaginally some years back, so now a lot of OB’s aren't competent or comfortable doing it. I used to work with one amazing doctor who would catch breech babies all the time but none of the other doctors would.
So what can a pregnant mama like you do?
Ask your doctor for hospital statistics on c-section. Question the reasons your doctor thinks you should deliver by caesarean. Change doctors if you're not feeling supported in having a vaginal birth. It's okay to question the status quo if you're uncomfortable with it!
If you do need to have a caesarean birth, check out my best tips for your recovery.
Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup
Hey there, I’m Joanne.
I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!
As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.
Still with me? Join me over at MamaSoup to keep the conversation going!