Cesarean Section! Ack! It’s an evil word in the natural birth community, and it’s often passed around like it’s the worst thing on earth that could happen during a woman’s birth. C-sections are routinely overused and our national rate of 32.9% is reflective of that. WHO (World Health Organization) stated, “There is no justification for any region to have CS rates higher than 10-15%” (1). Doctors these days put excuses on the table to justify the c-section such as the baby is too big, or the woman’s pelvis is too small, or the woman has been in labor too long (after only 10-12 hours sometimes!) I feel this failure is completely on the Provider’s head, not on the Mother’s. I believe that the mother made the best decision she could while in that situation in order to protect her baby, unfortunately she wasn’t provided with sufficient information as providers don’t take the time to educate women on their options.
I think just more education on birth in our country would lower the cesarean rate. Now I don’t mean just the hospital birthing classes, I mean education on epidurals and the side effect, what pitocin can do to you, how important moving in labor is, and how the chance that your baby or baby’s head is too big isn’t true when the bone plates in their head fold over each other to come down the birth canal. Recently I read a birth story where the Mother was told with her first baby that her pelvis was too small and there is no way she could have possibly birthed her 8lb child and that the c-section was necessary. She later went on to have a home birth VBAC with a 10lb baby! Your body, unless in the case of true diabetes, will NOT create a baby that is too big for you to birth.
With all that said above, there ARE reasons for cesarean sections. Very valid reasons! I know of two examples that have both happened to two friends of mine.
The first case happened to a dear friend of mine. We had been discussing natural birth before she even got pregnant and she is very educated on her options. Around 30 weeks she started getting some swelling and was slightly concerned over it so she monitored it closely. She started getting chest pain as well, enough to keep her up for two nights in a row so she made an emergency appointment with her doctor at 31 weeks and 1 day. It was discovered that she had gained 35lbs in 3 weeks and had VERY high levels of protein in her urine and her blood pressure spiked to 201/140, enough for the doctors and nurses to worry about her having a stroke or seizures. The chest pain that she thought was being caused by the baby being too high was actually her organs swelling, which can lead to organ failure. She was sent to L&D immediately with severe preeclampsia, that eventually turned into HELLP, and was told she would be there until the baby was born. They were aiming to hold off the c-section for 48 hours in order to get the full dose of steroids to the baby but after 36 hours her numbers started to get worse and she had to go for an emergency c-section. Her baby was born 36 hours after being admitted weighing 4.5lbs and 17.5 inches long and was very healthy for his gestational age! He was so strong that he didn’t even need oxygen! Within the week he was moved to a lower level NICU where all he had to do was focus on his eating and growing before he got to go home! Her cesarean was of absolute necessity in order to save her and her baby’s life!
The second is one of my past Doula clients, I wasn’t her Doula this time around because we were due just days apart from each other both with our second children. During a routine ultrasound it was discovered that her baby had a heart defect (aortic valve stenosis) and would need heart surgery soon after birth. They wanted to keep that baby in her as long as possible to give him the best chance of survival so they did routine ultrasounds and monitored his heart rate and development. At 35 weeks it was determined that he wasn’t thriving anymore and he needed to come out soon. Mom had steroids to develop his lungs and then a c-section as they feared he would be too weak to survive a vaginal delivery. In the Mom’s own words, “When he was born, he let out a tiny weak cry and then silence. They whisked him away to the team of doctors waiting in the next room. There they bagged him (mask and ambu bag) pushing air into his lungs for several minutes, but he never did make any effort to breathe on his own after that first tiny cry. They had to put him on the breathing machine and the rest is another story. He likely would have died trying to be born via vaginal delivery.”
This woman also happens to be a Doctor and wrote the following to me, “I learned so many lessons as a doctor through this experience. While there are many things about pre-natal care that are probably unnecessary, the procedures and tests are there to prevent the few poor outcomes. So many more women and babies used to die in childbirth (and still do in other countries). I’ve always said that the only reason you need to have a baby in the hospital and the only reason you need a doctor on hand is for those few cases that aren’t the norm. Well, turns out we were one of those and now I have a beautiful baby boy. Praise God.”
(1) World Health Organization. Appropriate technology for birth. Lancet 1985; 2