Dr. Lisa Umholtz, OB/GYN, has no problem when a woman requests to have an elective cesarean section performed in order to avoid the pain of childbirth. With tocophobia (the fear of childbirth) on the rise, some doctors simply do not mind the surgical procedure if it means that women can have healthy babies.
“Just in the last 10 years, we’ve been giving people that option; if they want to go straight to the c-section they can,” Dr. Umholtz said.
But there are risks involved with surgery of any kind and although increasingly common, cesarean sections still pose significant risks to mom and baby.
Risks for mom include infection, heavy blood loss, blood clots, nausea, vomiting, and severe headache after the delivery (related to anesthesia and the abdominal procedure), bowel problems, such as constipation or when the intestines stop moving waste material normally, and maternal death which is admittedly very rare. The risk of death for women who have a planned cesarean delivery is very low (about 6 in 100,000).
Cesarean risks for the infant include injury during the delivery, immature lungs and breathing problems and the need for special care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Yet some women don’t feel they have any other option because they are just too afraid to endure childbirth. Many of these women suffered through traumatic first births.
I had the sort of the opposite experience. During my first childbirth experience, despite having Demerol shots, (that not only made me feel loopy and caused me to hallucinate, but also made me severely nauseous) I had intense, indescribable, nearly horrific pain. So I was holding my dizzy head over a bucket while I felt the excruciating intensity of each and every contraction. I had a doctor who didn’t believe me when I said the baby was actually coming. He preferred to stroll around the hospital floor, rushing in only after my husband ran outside to get him, and then had the nerve to tell me to stop pushing so he could get his gloves on.
With my last two children, I opted for natural childbirth and although it was painful, it was also two of the best experiences of my life. I had a wonderful midwife who had a solution for every ailment and a calming serenity that made the births memorable and beautiful. Unmedicated, I was fully aware and present. By moving into certain positions, like laying on my left side with knees bent to help speed up the contractions, I felt I had more control over the birth.
For me, opting for a cesarean section would have made me more nervous. It would have also robbed me of the beautiful birth experiences I had with my midwife. Yet for some women, the apprehension of reliving the pain is too terrifying, and not even an epidural will help alleviate their fright. For these women, they see cesarean sections as their only way of having another child.
How was your childbirth experience? Would you ever consider an elective cesarean section if you didn’t have to?