The prospect of giving birth is a scary one, especially if you’re about to give birth to your first child. There are two ways you can give birth: vaginally or by Caesarean section (C-section). The former is the unscheduled, more natural way of giving birth. The latter is a scheduled surgical procedure.
C-sections can be scheduled for a variety of reasons, from possible medical complications for mothers to complications for the babies. However, there are some women who voluntarily elect to have C-sections as an alternative to delivering children vaginally.
Medical Issues and History
For some women, medical issues preclude giving birth vaginally. Women can sometimes develop pregnancy-related diabetes, or she may have a pre-pregnancy condition such as high blood pressure that will only increase during the naturally stressful act of labor. Your obstetrician will be able to diagnose any conditions that arise during your pregnancy.
Other women may be part of a high-risk pregnancy population, such as being classified as a geriatric pregnancy patient, or those who are over the age of 35 and pregnant. Some experts argue that age does not increase risks in pregnancy and delivery, yet the older we become, the more stress we put on our bodies. Adding pregnancy into the mix is bound to make it more difficult.
What about if you’re having twins, triplets, or quintuplets? Chances are you and your nurse midwife have already scheduled a C-section. Has your child been diagnosed in-utero with a medical condition? It is likely safer for both of you to schedule a C-section in order to plan for possible complications. Sometimes, C-sections happen at the last minute because the baby chooses to make it happen. If a baby is breech, or coming out feet-first instead of head-first, and cannot be rotated during labor, a C-section will be performed.
The Convenience of Giving Birth
Choosing a medically unnecessary C-section can occur for a variety of reasons as well. For many women, it can be a matter of convenience. Knowing the date of your baby’s birth can help you coordinate maternity and/or paternity leave if you have to take it as well as possibly helping with planning for extra help around the house. Planning your child’s birth also gives you a sense of control during a process that typically has you feeling out of control.
If you do plan a C-section, you will definitely need more help around the house, as you will be recovering from surgery. The postoperative recovery time for a C-section is typically six weeks compared to two for a vaginal birth.
And just because you schedule your baby’s birth doesn’t mean the baby won’t have other plans. For example, if you’re a loyal Mindy Project viewer, you will have seen that what little Leo Castellano had planned for Dr. Lahiri was much different to what she had planned for him.
The Anxieties of Labor
Like Dr. Lahiri, many women develop anxiety over giving birth. In fact, there is even a fear of giving birth, called tokophobia. It doesn’t necessarily stop women from getting pregnant, but it can add undue stress to the experience. Stress can also develop if you are fearful of interacting with your healthcare provider. Many doctors and nurses speak intimidating jargon that doesn’t translate well to all pregnant mothers.
Tokophobia and anxieties related to labor and delivery can be due to fears of labor pains or tearing. Discussing pain management with your healthcare provider is a great option for easing anxiety around labor pains. Epidurals can be effective if administered at the proper time during labor.
The possibility of tears in the vaginal area also instills fear in many women about to give birth. During some vaginal births, an episiotomy may be performed in order to make room for the baby’s head, but you can choose a provider who does not perform this procedure. Tearing can also happen naturally, and women may choose a C-section to avoid these kinds of injuries.
However, you may be trading one pain for another, as you are electing to have surgery. Again, you will likely be staying in the hospital longer than a woman who’s given birth vaginally. You may not even be able to lift anything heavier than your baby for four to six weeks after your C-section.
Most experts agree that if you have no medical reasons to choose a C-section, you should plan for a vaginal birth. C-sections can increase the risk of breathing problems for newborns. Because they are not being pushed through the birth canal, fluid in their lungs is not being naturally expressed, so some babies may end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. And according to Dr. Allison Bryant, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, there is a small chance some babies could be nicked by surgical instrument during C-sections.
Doctors do agree that if you plan your C-section, you will face fewer risks than having an emergency C-section. But the risks may outweigh the rewards, since C-sections postpone post-birth activities such as bonding and breastfeeding. Vaginal births also decrease your and your baby’s risk of infection, and once you have a C-section, you are more likely to have more C-sections.
In the end, it’s your body and your baby. Make like Sherlock and do your research. Be sure to discuss all your options with your healthcare providers. And be prepared for your carefully-laid plans to be blown out of the water. Just ask Mindy Lahiri.
Featured photo credit: Olivia/Alicja via stock.tookapic.com