In Defense of C-SectionsRebekah Kuschmider
I found out yesterday that my baby is lying breech. The doctor who figured it out got a little tone of urgency in his voice when he told me his suspicion during my exam and immediately sent the nurse to see if they could work me in for a sonogram to confirm the baby’s position. My immediate reaction was twofold. First, a breech position totally explained the sensation I’ve been having of the baby kicking me (hard) in the tendon in my groin causing my to gasp with discomfort while my leg buckles slightly. Second, I shrugged and mentioned that I was glad that my c-section was already scheduled.
I’m having what was, until yesterday, an elective repeat section. I had a section with my son because after two hours of trying to push him out while he remained stubbornly sunny-side up, he wasn’t moving and we both started to show mild signs of distress. I spiked a fever and my son’s heartrate sped up, so down the hall I went to the OR. My son was delivered shortly thereafter and thus began my life as a mom.
In no way do I consider that c-section a bad outcome. In fact and this is going to sound radical I don’t view c-sections in general as a bad outcome. Assuming, of course, neither mother nor baby are injured in the process.
Now, I know that birth is an intensely personal experience. It’s one of the most profound transitions a person can experience and it’s as emotional as it is physical. Many women invest a great deal of thought and preparation into planning for birth and visualize their personal ideal birth in great detail. Seldom does an ideal birth involve surgical intervention at the 11th hour. But that doesn’t make surgical intervention a bad thing.
We are fortunate to live in a time and a place where we have many birth choices and safe birth is the norm. We have the incredible luxury of considering how we most want to deliver our babies and setting plans in motion to achieve our desires. This was not the case for countless generations of women before us and it’s not the case for women living in developing nations today; for example, in sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 13 women die due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The question of hospital versus home versus birth center or use of pain relief methods or avoiding surgical birth never comes up for so many women who will deliver in unsafe, non-sterile conditions. I, for one, am humbled with gratitude when I consider my good fortune to be treated by a team of doctors who have cared for me so well during both of my pregnancies, have counseled me on my options, and will deliver my baby safely. There is almost no doubt in my mind that I’ll be released from the hospital with a healthy baby in my arms, and I understand that that is a privilege afforded to me by luck.
Cesarian section is one of the options for safe birth in the US and I, on the whole, consider that a positive thing. I get somewhat perturbed when I hear women talking about avoiding c-section as if that is the main goal of birth. It’s not ideal, it’s not the first choice, but it’s a time-tested procedure that can resolve complications safely or head them off before they happen. Some literature suggests overuse of c-section, and there are anecdotes about doctors who schedule them for when they’re not really indicated, but that doesn’t make them bad.
Women should all take the time to consider their feelings about c-sections and discuss them with their medical team. They should ask where their care provider draws the line between letting labor continue and calling for a c-section. They should work closely with doctors to manage expectations, be realistic about their likely birth scenarios and work together to achieve the best possible outcome. But they should not vilify the idea of a c-section. C-sections are not a punishment. They are not an indication of failure. They are not conspiracy against women. They are just one option for a safe birth.
And isn’t safe birth what this is really all about?