Here are a couple little... "Do you know's?"
• The rate of births by cesarean section has been rapidly increasing in recent years. In 1970, c-sections accounted for five percent of American births, while now they account for 28 percent.
• Currently, 3 in 10 American women give birth by cesarean, a major abdominal surgery.
• C-section has become the most common surgical procedure performed on women of childbearing age.
• Elective, "by request" cesareans are becoming more common every year. One study by a publicly-traded healthcare ratings company even claims to have found a 36 percent increase in elective cesareans between 2001 and 2003.
• Cesarean section, a major abdominal surgery, can be a life-saver for both mother and baby in a small number of cases. But for most women and babies at the end of pregnancy, the risks of surgical birth outweigh benefits.
• Thanks to vast research and data collection of recent years, we’ve learned that the perception of c-section as "totally safe" or even preferable to vaginal delivery is unfounded.
• Here’s what the body of research tells us: Compared with vaginal birth, cesarean section can increase a woman’s risk for a number of problems, including:
Severe post-operative pain
Delay in release from the hospital
Mental health and emotional difficulties, including PPD (postpartum depression)
Lowered future fertility
Future ectopic pregnancies that develop outside the uterus or within the scar
Pre-term or low birthweight babies in future pregnancies
Physical abnormality or damage to the brain or spinal cord of future babies
Increased chance of fetal or newborn death of future babies.
• C-sections are also associated with increased risks for newborns, including:
Difficulty breastfeeding and/or bonding, due to decreased early contact with the recuperating mother
Breathing problems around the time of birth
Asthma in childhood and adulthood
Cuts (usually minor) from the cesarean surgery itself.
• A planned cesarean offers some advantages over an unplanned c-section, which happens after labor is already in progress. Unplanned c-sections tend to impact the delivering mother heavily in terms of her emotional health. However, c-section under any circumstance does come with the risks of a major surgery. Any c-section will cause a uterine scar and impacts your future pregnancies equally.
• It’s important to know that an assisted vaginal delivery – that is, one involving forceps or vacuum extraction to get the baby out – also carries more risk than an unassisted vaginal birth. A woman with an assisted vaginal delivery is more likely to have bowel problems, hemorrhoids, pain with intercourse, emotional distress during the postpartum period, and a baby at increased risk of injuries to the arm, hand, face, and brain.
• Though there clearly are medical situations in which either a cesarean section or an assisted vaginal birth is appropriate – even lifesaving – the safest, healthiest birth for the majority of women is still the good, old-fashioned unassisted vaginal delivery. Nature is no idiot.
• So why all the c-sections these days? There answer is at least fourfold – medical, financial, legal, social. Ob/gyns feel pressure to practice medicine "defensively," and tend to think that opting for a c-section protects them from litigation. Also to protect themselves legally and financially, many doctors will not perform a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesearean), even when the woman requests one and there’s no clear medical reason why it shouldn’t be attempted. (The latest research -- and a statement from the NIH -- tells us that for most women, VBAC is safe and desirable.) Many doctors don’t try less invasive procedures, like turning a breech baby or giving a laboring woman more time, using c-section as more of a first choice than a last resort. Some doctors are unwilling to allow a woman with twins or a breech baby to attempt a vaginal birth, period. The "medical model" of birth in our culture, which understands ALL births as medical events requiring significant intervention, normalizes c-sections to a large degree.
• If you find yourself at the hospital with a doctor proposing a cesarean, and it’s not an emergency situation, ask him or her to go through ALL of your options and the risks/benefits of each. In a non-emergency, do not be afraid to ask for more time to consider the options and discuss with your partner.
• And if all else fails and you end up with a cesarean or an assisted birth for any reason, do not allow yourself to think of the birth – or your body – as a "failure." This simply isn’t the case! Remember that occasionally medical help during birth is a necessity and a blessing. Celebrate your new baby and his or her good health, and be kind to yourself, body and soul.