According to the World Health Organization, 10-15 percent is the recommended Cesarean section (or C-section) rate. 10-15 percent is considered a good number in regards to the wellbeing of the mother and the baby, meaning that for almost 1 out of every 8-10 births, a C-section is medically necessary for the safety and health of the mother and baby. So why on earth is the C-section rating in the US almost triple that, at 33%? In the US, where the health care system is supposed to be one of the best in the world, 1 or more babies, out of every three born are delivered via C-sections. This number continues to increase despite the fact that increased C-sections are not increasing better birth outcomes. In so many words, many of these C-sections are completely and absolutely unnecessary.
How could this be? What could be causing so many unnecessary C-sections?
Well, a number of things have led the US to this alarmingly high rate. (The US’ C-section rate was just 5% in 1970!) But more and more mothers are preferring C-sections because they can be scheduled in advance, so there are less surprises when it comes to the birth of their child. Many people also report doctors’ willingness to perform or even offer C-sections unnecessarily for many reasons that can be shocking unethical. Also, one cannot deny the major difference that all the new technology entering the labor and delivery room has made. Monitoring mothers and babies from the second they enter the labor department can trigger more alarms (like the increased or decreased heart rate or oxygen level of the baby) and incorrectly signal the “supposed need” for a C-section because medical personnel are not all that knowledgeable about the always changing and increasingly intrusive influx of information from the newest hottest devices.
Regardless of the reason for increased unnecessary C-sections, many women need to do more research before unnecessarily jumping down this dangerous rabbit hole. C-sections come with some major after-effects that many women are not prepared for in the long run. And then there are those women, who, no matter how hard they try to avoid a C-section, end up getting one anyway.
Here are 10 reasons to avoid a C-sections at all costs, and 5 reasons people end up getting them anyway.
15 The Spinal Headache And Other Delivery Complications
One major reason to avoid a C-section if at all possible, is the increased likelihood of delivery complications. As with any major surgery, C-sections require an incision to be made into the abdominal wall and the uterus, and therefore ups the ante for certain things like infection, heavy blood loss, blood clots in the legs or lungs, as well as nausea, vomiting, and several headaches. A spinal headache is a monster of a migraine that is caused by an epidural, or spinal block; the two forms of regional anesthesia that numb the lower half of the mother’s body.
In some instances, the needle used to administer the pain-relieving drugs, punctures the wrong part of the spinal cavity causing spinal fluid to leak into cavities surrounding the spinal cord which can cause some pretty intense headaches. Here’s the gut-puncher, these headaches can start anywhere from 12-72 hours after delivery and last anywhere from 24 hours to (some women report) several weeks!
14 Longer Hospital Stays
Women who deliver their babies vaginally with no complications can go home in as early as 24 hours. On average those women end up going home within 24-48 hours after their baby is born. On the other hand, women who have C-sections must stay at the hospital for at least 72 hours. (It’s a major surgery, folks.) Maybe that sounds great from the outside looking in: more time to heal, more help with baby, and the likes. However, for women that are ready to bring baby home and start adjusting to new life with the baby, or for women with other children at home, 72 hours can sound like a prison sentence.
It’s also 72 hours of people peeking in every hour or so to check vitals, deciding what mom can and cannot eat, checking on how mom is feeding/changing/adjusting to baby. Again, to some, this may sound heavenly, to others, it is way too much “intervention action”.
13 The Lack Of Mobility During The Surgery
Some women are shocked at their loss of control in the birth of their child when it comes to C-sections. As discussed previously, during C-sections, women are given either a spinal block or epidural to numb the entire lower part of their bodies for the surgical procedure. The problem is when a woman cannot feel the lower half of her body she also may not “feel” as involved in the birth of her child. While they do not tie a woman’s hands down during C-sections, the hands and arms are restricted to a certain point to avoid them getting in the way of the surgery.
Several women report being so nauseous during the procedure that they vomit, but need their husbands, or partners to hold the barf bag because they can only move their neck and head. During a C-section, not only can the mother not see what’s going on (for obvious reasons, no one needs to see the inside of their own abdomen) but she also cannot move for the majority of it.
12 The Medication Versus Breastfeeding
People always hear: most medications given to mom during and after a C-section are compatible with breastfeeding. With that being said, compatibility loses its strength when it comes to dealing with a newborn. New moms already don't know what to expect with the brand-new completely dependent little life attached to them morning, noon, and night. Medications can cause excessive sleepiness in newborns and an overly drowsy baby can worry even the most confident mom. Along with the different tips and advice given at every turn this predicament can be very confusing and very unnerving.
The doctor may say medicate like clockwork for the first few days after a C-section to prevent pain from becoming unmanageable and the baby will be fine. However, trusted online sources say only take pain medication when absolutely necessary to prevent excessive sleepiness in a newborn therefore preventing trouble with breastfeeding. And then there are the actual bottles of medication that say DO NOT USE IF PREGNANT OR NURSING. What’s a mom to do? Take her medication to prevent pain while worrying about her newborn that is always asleep? Stop medicating in order to nurse the baby and be doubled over in pain? Or just totally ignore the huge warning label on each pill bottle? Its cuckoo for cocoa puffs!
11 The Inability To Hold The Baby Right After Delivery
This one is a tough one. Imagine carrying a baby for nine months, feeling kicks, hiccups, and watching the belly grow and grow. The day finally comes for the baby to arrive and after a while, the first cries can be heard. It is mind blowing for a mother to FINALLY hear the first sounds of her child and be unable to hold them. The average length of a C-section is 45 minutes, and on average the baby is usually out within the first 15 minutes. So, that leaves another mind numbing thirty minutes for the mother to lay there being “worked on” before she is taken to the recovery room where she can then hold her baby.
30 minutes may not seem like a long time for the average Joe, but to a new mom, waiting to count toes, hug, kiss, and caress her newborn - it can seem like a lifetime. And yes, its lovely if dad is there to hold baby until mom can, but moms who know, know the waiting period is maddening.
10 The Recovery Time
The following statement will be made time and time again throughout this list: a C-section is a major surgery. As with any surgery, the body needs time to heal. An hour after a vaginal birth, moms can snack on whatever they like. C-section mamas get no food until they pass gas, no matter how long that takes, because the nurses need to make sure the digestive track is functioning properly before sending food down. One day after a vaginal birth, those moms can expect to be packing up and heading home, while moms who went the route of a C-section can expect to be getting their catheters removed and begin walking the hospital hallways.
So, starting with the longer and more invasive hospital stays (on average from 3 to 4 days) recovery continues at home for weeks after delivery. Most women can expect to be fully recovered from an uncomplicated C-section within 4-6 weeks. Doctors always advise these new moms not to lift anything heavier than the baby during this time period to avoid putting stress on the incision trying to heal. Having a baby vaginally or via C-section requires some extent of recovery time but as with everything else, C-sections take much longer.
9 The Cost Of A C-Section Versus A Vaginal Delivery
Most people can logically assume that C-section deliveries cost more than vaginal deliveries. The part that most people do not expect is how much more C-sections can cost versus vaginal deliveries. Key findings all point to a difference of 50% or more when it comes to the out of pocket costs. While health insurance can help out tremendously, an uninsured uncomplicated vaginal deliver can range from 9,000-17,000 dollars versus 14,000-25,000 dollars for an uninsured uncomplicated scheduled C-section.
The reason for the differences in cost has to do with medications necessary before, during, and after surgery, longer hospital stays, and the extra medical inventions and staffing needed to keep mom and baby safe and healthy. These costs only apply to uncomplicated deliveries, be it vaginal or cesarean. Complications will always cause the out of pocket expenses to sky rocket, especially when the newborn baby is born prematurely and needs to stay in the NICU.
8 The Incision Scar
A lot of the time the scar from a C-section incision heals as it should and no one would know the difference between a bikini clad mom that has had a C-section versus a bikini clad mom that has had a vaginal delivery. The C-section incision in most cases is a small one that’s between 4 and 6 inches, made below the belly button, vertically on what is referred to as the bikini line. To many people, it’s surprising how small a space a baby’s head can fit through during delivery. C-section scars are usually red or pink at first and should fade and shrink to a pale flat line.
So, now that what is normal or typical is out of the way, what happens when the scars don’t heal properly? For many women, the pale, flat, small scar is not what they see in the mirror, some women create bigger, thicker, and raised scars. Please believe that there is definitely a reason for the numerous C-section scar creams and bandages available, not to mention websites devoted to tattoos coverings them. So, there must be many women struggling to make them less obvious.
7 Once A C-section, Always A C-section
Once a C-section, always a C-section, as the saying goes. While many people, even doctors say this is not the cases, the actual numbers claim otherwise. There would be many more VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) deliveries performed if that saying was not true. The reason many people end up getting another (2nd, 3rd, or 4th) C-section after the first one is simple: fear. It’s not like there is a scientific fact that a vaginal birth after a C-section is more dangerous, because that has not been proven. Studies even show that a vaginal birth after a C-section and a second C-sections may have the same health outcomes. But there is the very big fear of the 1% chance of uterine rupture. A uterine rupture is the separation through the thickness of the uterine wall at the site of a previous C-section; it is a dangerous complication for both mother and baby.
Doctors (some of them) drill that 1% possibility of uterine rupture, into their patient’s heads whenever they question second or third C-sections, often scaring them to death. However, it should be noted, and doctors should always mention that it happens less than 1-2% of the time; in a study of 1000 births, 992-993 gave birth without the complication of uterine rupture. Ok, so that still sounds spooky, because what about those 7 or 8, well, that’s why many people end up getting subsequent C-sections. Fear. If there was a 99% chance people would win the lottery if they played their birthday numbers, how many people would do it? Everyone would probably take that chance.
6 The Possibility Of Adhesions And More Surgeries
Ever heard of an adhesion? Probably not, doctors don’t typically mention this painful and yucky possibility while talking up C-sections. An adhesion is a band of scar tissue that forms as the body heals from a C-section. Adhesions can be as thin as a sheet of saran wrap or thick fibrous tissues. As adhesions grow they can cause organs to stick together as well as tons of other problems, and they can be extremely painful. If left untreated, they can cause chronic pain, infertility, and life threatening bowel obstructions.
Also, for the kicker, adhesions cannot be seen on diagnostic tests like x-rays, sonograms, and ultrasounds, they can only be found through MORE surgery. While very rare, some women develop endometriosis post C-section deliveries. Endometriosis is a painful disease where endometrial tissue grows outside of where it is supposed to stay, like in the incision site after a C-section. Symptoms of endometrial growth at the incision site includes a painful mass that grows and bleeds at the same time as a woman’s monthly cycle.
So we know why to avoid C-sections, here are 5 reasons women end of getting them anyway.
5 It’s A Multiple Pregnancy
Women carrying multiple children often end up getting C-sections. There are many reasons this occurs. Women carrying three or more fetuses usually requires having a C-section because labor can be incredibly long and hard on the mother and there is the possibility of things getting tangled. If the twins are locking, meaning they are holding onto each other or their limbs caught together, it requires a C-sections because there is not enough room in the birth canal for all that love. Also, if the twins are conjoined, any part of their bodies have formed as one, it requires a C-section delivery.
In addition, twins that share an amniotic sac will also be delivered via C-section because of the risk of the umbilical cords getting tangled. Multiple pregnancies always carry their own set of difficulties and risks. For these women, it is almost always easier and safer for mom and babies to go forward with a scheduled C-section. But experts do recommend waiting as long as possible to allow the babies as much time as they need to grow within the womb before birth.
4 There Are Problems With The Placenta
The placenta grows in the uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen. When the placenta starts acting up or not behaving in the way it is meant to, it can create serious problems for mom and baby and can cause serious bleeding with a vaginal delivery. Placenta abruption is one condition in which the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before birth. It can detach fully or partially, and if it does it may prevent the baby from receiving proper nutrition and oxygen, and can lead to heavy bleeding from the mother.
Another condition is placenta previa, which occurs when the placenta grows over (and essentially covers) the cervix. This placenta problem can also be partial or complete, but in any case, it usually requires a C-section. Because the baby cannot get out if the “door” is blocked. Here’s a stinger, scarring from previous C-sections ups the chances for developing placenta previa, bringing this whole thing full circle, yet again.
3 If Mom Has An Infection
One big reason for a C-section would be if the mother has some sort of infectious disease. Babies born to mothers with HIV are delivered via C-sections to decrease the babies' chances of catching the devastating condition. Also, although a herpes infection in a pregnant woman is usually safe in regards to the fetus, that all changes when she gets ready to deliver. Active herpes lesions found on the genitals of a pregnant women are highly contagious and can infect the infant as he or she is being born. The virus also may become active and begin multiplying before there are any signs on the skin; for these reasons, women suffering from this sexually transmitted disease usually have their babies via C-section deliveries.
Genital warts can also be very tricky to maneuver during pregnancy, in most cases medication typically taken for treatment may be delayed until after delivery, and at the same time pregnancy hormones might cause the clusters to grow more numerously and bigger. In some cases, they can grow large enough to block the birth canal, also requiring C-section delivery.
2 There Are Complications During Labor And Birth
So many things can happen during labor and delivery that will necessitate a C-section delivery. A breech baby, while only found in about 4% of the population of pregnant women at full term, is when a baby is feet down versus head down at the time of delivery. Research suggests that it is much safer to deliver a baby via C-section when babies are breech, and estimates are all the way up to 10x increased safety. In addition to breeched babies, other situations making a C-section the safest choice include cephalopelvic disproportion, diabetes, preeclampsia, birth defects, and cord prolapse. Cephalopelvic disproportion, is just another way to say the baby’s head is too big, or the mom’s birth canal is too small. However, true CDC is rare, and often diagnosed incorrectly.
Diabetes during pregnancy can cause the baby to grow too large to fit through the birth canal. Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure, is a reason C-sections are often done, although only with severe preeclampsia is a C-section really warranted. Birth defects, however, are a legitimate reason to get a C-section, because it can reduce the chance of further complications from delivery. Finally, cord prolapse, which is also extremely rare, requires an emergency C-section because the umbilical cord slips out through the cervix and every time the uterus contracts it restricts blood flow to the baby.
1 The Baby Is In Distress Or Cannot Progress
In the end, most babies are delivered via C-sections for 3 reasons: mom has already had one C-section, the baby is in distress, or the labor is failing to progress. Here’s the problem with those top three reasons, C-sections are being performed a lot more (a whole lot more) than necessary. Labor and delivery are not easy for first time moms (and even second and third timers), labor and delivery can be downright terrifying. The last thing a woman needs is someone offering alternatives that can have (unknown to her) lifelong consequences.
Yes, C-sections are sometimes necessary to save lives and increase the health and wellbeing of the mother and child, but in the US, this is not what’s taking place. C-sections are being performed as an option not a solution. The World Health Organization has long stood by its ideal C-section rate of 10-15%, because when the rate goes over 10% there is NO EVIDENCE that the death rates improve. This simply means the RISKS outweigh the benefits! C-sections are increasing rapidly, as noted before the US is up to 33% (1 out of 3) mainly because of fear. Fear and convenience.