With my own c-section coming up in roughly 6ish weeks I really wanted to go over some of the commonly avoided and glossed over facts surrounding c-section delivery. I think today they have certainly become increasingly popular, and many major health organizations have come out and said the number of cesarean deliveries needs to decrease.
Unfortunately I find myself in a very small percent of women that just cannot get my babies through my pelvis, or even into my pelvis, and even as a natural birth advocate, and an advocate for women having the birth they want, it sucks because there are some times I totally feel left out.
Its life, and I am coming to terms with it, and becoming empowered by my choices for my upcoming birth, but with that… lets talk about the facts most people don’t!
1. C-Sections are MAJOR surgery! – It is not an out patient procedure, it is not like having a tooth pulled, or just having a mole removed… Hell, it is easier to have a kidney stone surgically removed! (Believe me, I have been there!)
Even though it is the most common surgery in America, they are not without risks. In fact cesarean deliveries carry a laundry list of dangers including infection, re-hospitalization, decrease in bowel function, increased risk for hysterectomy and bladder damage, and increase maternal mortality rates. Yes, this scares the living bejesus out of me everyday!
2. Recovery is much longer and more difficult - I am sure there are women out there who have had horrible and complicated vaginal deliveries that could compare to c-section recovery, but with major surgery, often comes major recovery time. While the typical recovery time is cited as 6 weeks, it takes the uterus much longer to fully heal. Depending on what provider you ask, some suggest the uterus does not fully heal from a c-section for a full 24 months.
3. Risk of Premature Delivery - Unfortunately even with all the strides we have made in medical science, due dates still are not as accurate as we like to treat them. Even with first trimester ultrasounds, there is still a 10 day margin for error which has also lead to the increase in late term premature babies in the last decade, which as continued to rise, as most premature deliveries have declined. Many believe this is due to the increased number in elective deliveries before 39 weeks gestation, whether it be c-sections or inductions. With these deliveries, it also increases complications for feeding, temperature regulation, and respiratory issues for your newborn. Babies born by c-section also are at a greater risk for longer hospital stays, and NICU stays. My second son, although I went into labor on my own and knew he was ready spent time in the NICU also!
4. Breathing Problems – Respiratory distress is more common in babies born via c-section. Thankfully I have never personally experienced it with either of my children, it is still something that scares me a lot. A 2007 study conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians showed an increase in the risk of breathing difficulties and longer hospital stays in infants born by non-emergency or elective Cesarean sections. The information proved that in many cases, these babies may not have been to term or ready to be delivered, which increased their likelihood of breathing troubles. Again with due dates coming into play.
5. Placenta Problems – While the first c-section isn’t a concern, with each c-section a woman has, and the damage and scarring on the uterus… there are increased risk for serious placenta problems, some of which can be life threatening to mothers. Again scaring the life out of me! One of the most dangerous of these conditions is Placenta Acretta, which is when the placenta grows into the uterine wall, often requiring an emergency hysterectomy. This risk goes from 0.6% with a second C-section to 2.1% with a third C-section, and increases with every C-section thereafter.
6. Bacteria – When babies are born vaginally, they are exposed to good bacteria that live inside the vagina of the mother. The exposure to this bacteria is an important process in helping boost or jumpstart the immune system of the infant. Infants born by Cesarean are exposed to less favorable bacteria found in hospitals and on the skin of their mothers. Of special concern are traces of STAPH infections and Streptococcus pneumoniae, which can cause pneumonia. Oh the lovely germs floating around in the hospital!
7. Insurance Coverage in Women – I bet you didn’t know that a c-section can be considered a pre-existing condition that an insurance company can deny you medical coverage over! I didn’t know that either, until after my second c-section. Peggy Robertson of Colorado made national headlines a couple of years ago when she was denied medical insurance because she had a previous Cesarean delivery. Denied coverage or higher premiums for women with previous surgical deliveries is a growing trend across the country. The insurance companies fear higher medical costs, more complications and subsequent Cesarean deliveries for women who have more than one C-section.
8. Inductions & C-Sections – A recent study published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology of over 8,000 first-time mothers showed that inducing their labors doubled their risks for having a Cesarean delivery, which is a reason why elective or routine induction is not recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Despite this guideline, currently over 40% of women have their labors induced in the United States, though it’s not clear what percent are medical or elective.
9. C-Sections are common – 1 out of every 3 mothers in America give birth by surgical delivery. In 2008—the most recent year for which there’s data—the C-section rate in the U.S. stood at 32.3% of all births. That marked the 12th consecutive annual increase in the surgical birth rate… and the amount of VBAC bans, and misinformation about birth only stands to increase this number in the next decade, despite the medical communities outcry to lower the rate.
10. Life Saving – In cases like my own, and my previous birth experiences, c-sections can and are great lifesaving tools, but they should only be used when it is truly medically necessary. Wanting to prevent a tear of the vagina, or keep your lady parts intact may sound like a good reason, but medically could lead to more trouble in the future.