Even though almost one-third of births are via C-section, they are still highly regarded as the “unnatural” route to deliver a baby and often stigmatized as an inferior method of childbirth. So why are C-sections often accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, and a sense of failure?
Despite the prevalence of C-section births in the United States, many women still report feeling like their bodies failed them when they had to give birth via C-section instead of a vaginal delivery. New mothers report feeling like they somehow missed the mark or didn’t have a true labor and delivery experience because they had a C-section, whether planned or emergency. Vaginal births are often regarded as the natural, “right” route to give birth, the optimal birthing experience for women. C-sections are often viewed as a “last resort” measure when all other options have been exhausted, only to be used if the baby or the mother faces extreme danger with a vaginal delivery.
Although C-sections are a common occurrence in modern times, there’s a lot of discrepancy in how conversations with health professionals take place during pregnancy regarding C-section versus vaginal deliveries. Most doctors emphasize vaginal births, and unless certain health conditions or dangerous factors arise during pregnancy that would necessitate the need for a C-section, the procedure often isn’t discussed in depth during prenatal appointments.
Doctors, nurses, and midwives need to ensure that any birth, whether vaginal or C-section, is free of stigma and judgment.
So, what are some of the stigmas surrounding cesarean births?
- The mother wants “the easy way out.”
- The mother is fearful of experiencing pain during childbirth.
- The mother wants to plan and schedule her baby’s birth date.
- The mother didn’t try hard enough during labor.
- The mother’s body didn’t do what should come naturally for women.
- The mother is concerned about what a vaginal delivery will do to her body.
- The mother values medical intervention over “natural” processes.
- The mother was too impatient to endure the vaginal delivery process.
- The mother didn’t birth her child the “right” way.
If you’re pregnant or expecting to become pregnant soon, you’ve probably heard a ton of conflicting messages from the media, friends, and family about cesarean sections versus vaginal births. While everyone’s birthing experience is different and all mothers should be allowed to have an opinion about they give birth, it’s important that expectant mothers know the facts about C-sections before they go into labor so they can make the best, informed decision with their doctor about what the most successful method of childbirth will be for her.
Let’s discuss a few of the facts about C-sections:
If you have previously had a C-section, most doctors will urge mothers to have repeat C-sections for future births. A vaginal birth after a C-section, or VBAC, can be dangerous because the scar on the uterus might rupture during labor. Also, if your labor is taking a long time, it may be determined to be a failure to progress, and a woman might opt for a C-section. If your baby is in a breech position prior to birth, your doctor might also urge you to have a C-section due to the increased risk during labor for both mother and baby. Changes in fetal heart rate during labor might point to issues in your baby’s condition and a C-section might be necessary.
Before a C-section, your belly and legs will be numbed by an anesthesiologist. Your spouse or birthing partner will be allowed to stand next to you during the procedure. Although feeling tugging and pulling sensations are common, women should not feel any pain during the quick procedure. After the baby is born, he will be assessed and monitored by health professionals while a doctor stitches up the mother. Most women stay in the hospital for 3 or 4 days after a C-section.
Current data shows that nearly a third of births in the U.S. are via C-section. This could be due to the increase in labor inductions. Furthermore, many care providers don’t offer enough support during labor so that women are able to get their labors to progress (sitting upright, moving around, walking, etc). It could also be influenced by the increase in hospitals taking a firm stance on prohibiting VBACs due to the dangers that arise during a vaginal delivery following a prior C-section.
A C-section is a surgical procedure, and like all other surgical procedures, there are a few risks. Mothers can develop an infection at the incision site, she might sustain an injury to her organs, the hospital stay and recovery time is longer than with a vaginal delivery, or she may have a negative reaction to the anesthesia. C-sections present some risks for babies as well. There are higher rates of breathing problems in infants born via C-section, and these infants often have lower APGAR scores. A baby can also be injured during the surgery itself, although this is rare. It is important to discuss the risks to mother and baby before making a decision with your doctor about whether a C-section is the best way to deliver your baby.
If you have a C-section, you are more likely to have C-sections with all future deliveries. Many hospitals are adopting a no-VBAC policy due to the increased level of risk in delivering vaginally after a prior C-section. Again, this is something that can be discussed with your healthcare provider.
No matter how you give birth, the only thing that should matter is the health and safety of both you and your little one. There shouldn’t be a stigma around certain medical interventions when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. What should be prioritized above all else is ensuring the safe arrival of your new baby!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.