When it comes to childbirth, it’s not as simple as V=good and C=bad. Anyone thinking otherwise is in need of some childbirth education not to mention a smack upside the head. It’s thinking like this that makes women who have had C-sections feel shame and disappointment and that’s just not fair.
The truth is that most moms-to-be don’t plan on having a C-section birth - they often end up occurring for a variety of unpredictable medical reasons. And while they are most definitely safer than in the past, according to childbirth researchers as well as medical professionals - vaginal births are still more ideal in terms of safety and risk of ongoing medical concerns.
Currently, C-sections account for almost 32% of all deliveries within the U.S. If this seems high - that’s because it is. As a result of this new norm, many people are often under the mistaken belief that they are easier and safer than labor and vaginal delivery. Which is just not true.
Like them or not, C-sections are major surgery - which means they require a period of recovery and are accompanied by increased risk of hemorrhage, infection, scarring (internal and external), as well as possible issues concerning breastfeeding and future conception.
While there are no surefire methods to bypass having a C-section, there are steps a woman can take to increase her chances of averting one. Continue reading to find out 15 amazing ways women have avoided C-sections.
15 Stay-At-Home Mom
Here’s an interesting anecdote: Jennifer Block, author of “Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care” relates a story about a Florida hospital dealing with power outages during a hurricane. As a result, unless a pregnant woman was in active labor, she was sent home. As a result, this particular hospital’s emergency C-sections dropped significantly.
It goes to show - just because contractions have started, it’s not always necessary to rush straight to the hospital. In fact, the longer a woman remains at home, chances are a C-section will not be on her docket.
Mother of three, Karen M. opted to use a midwife when pregnant with her first child seven years ago. “She advised me to labor at home for as long as possible as she said it would progress better that way. I did end up cutting it closer than I would have liked - we got to the hospital and I gave birth to my son less than 40 minutes later. My best advice is to trust your instinct. It will steer you in the right direction.”
14 Make A Few Adjustments
When a baby is in position for their bum to be birthed before their head, this is referred to as breech. While it is possible to deliver a breech baby vaginally, it is less than ideal. And in most cases, if a baby is in the breech position during the final weeks of gestation, a C-section is often recommended.
There is a school of thought that looks at the connection between maternal positioning and baby positioning. The basis of this theory is that there are certain positions a pregnant woman can take in order to nudge her baby into proper birthing position. For example, it is important for a woman to keep her pelvis balanced, maintain good posture and keep her hips flexible. Some techniques recommended include:
- Plenty of daily walking during pregnancy
- Sitting with her back straight and ribcage raised
- Squatting exercises
- Brief forward leans where her rear is raised higher than her shoulders
- Bilateral and unilateral strength-training exercises
- Sitting on an exercise ball with her hips raised higher than her knees.
13 Verify The VBAC
Stacey L. started researching the VBAC process soon after having her first child via C-section. Standing for Vaginal Birth After Caesarean, VBACs have a success rate of approximately 70% though in most states there are limited hospitals and doctors willing to attempt them.
While Stacey’s doctor tried to discourage her from trying for a VBAC, that didn’t stop her from pursuing the birthing option further on her own.
“I started out by talking to women I knew who had successfully had a VBAC and when I became pregnant again, I found a doctor who encouraged them. After meeting with her, she looked at my history and said I was a likely candidate for it. Even though I knew it wasn’t a sure thing, I was overjoyed that I had found someone willing to help me give it a shot.”
In Stacey’s case, the VBAC was successful and she gave birth to a second son after a typical labor and delivery. Her success story proves that just because a woman has undergone a C-section once, her subsequent birthing choices are not set in stone. It also validates how important it is for a woman to find a healthcare provider who supports her decision.
12 Call The Midwife
One of the best ways to steer clear of having a non-emergency C-section is to team up with a midwife. Only a small percentage of women end up undergoing C-sections when under a midwife’s care. Inclined toward vaginal births over surgery, midwives are experts within (normal) pregnancy, birth as well as newborn care. In most cases, women under the care of a midwife are able to choose whether to give birth at home, in hospital or at a birthing center.
When Julie C. was pregnant with her second child, she decided to use a midwife in the hopes of having a VBAC. Her first pregnancy had resulted in a C-section and she was hoping to dodge the surgery the second time around. Because of her unique situation, she ended up undergoing a C-section for the second baby as well. But as a result of working with a midwife, Julie was able to receive continued support from her midwife during the actual surgery and following the baby’s birth. And she was satisfied with her experience, knowing that both she and her midwife had given their best effort to circumvent the C-section process.
11 Electronic Evasion
Electronic fetal monitors (sometimes known as cardiotocography or CTG) may be considered cutting edge technology in terms of monitoring an unborn baby’s level of distress - but keep in mind that they are designed to err on the side of caution. As a result, they are often prone to providing a high false-positive rate for baby distress.
In many cases, monitoring a fetus by stethoscope or a hand-held Doppler ultrasound is just as effective prior to birth and even during labor and is less likely to lead to a C-section. In fact, women monitored electronically are 20% more likely to undergo a C-section than women who aren’t.
Unfortunately, the usage of electronic fetal monitoring is sometimes considered ingrained within hospital culture even though their benefits don’t necessarily outweigh the use of hand-held devices.
For women experiencing pregnancies deemed low-risk or normal, it may make sense to forego the usage of electronic monitoring altogether. Or at the very least, it warrants a discussion with the healthcare provider in order to understand the pros and cons of using the available technology.
10 Trust Matters
In all things pregnancy and childbirth, trust matters. Remember these three Ts: trust the birthing process; trust the human body; and trust the medical professional. That said, trust doesn’t always come naturally, especially for women who like to be in complete control. But at some point during the birthing process, control will most likely have to be relinquished a tad. That’s where trust comes into play and buoys a woman up and through what needs to happen.
Sarah N. recalls how frightening her first childbirth experience was. “I had this birth plan that I did not want to deviate from and really nothing was going according to plan whatsoever. I wasn’t crazy about my doctor (in hindsight this was probably what lead to everything going astray), my labor was intense and difficult and I ended up having a C-section which I was depressed about.
“When I got pregnant again, I found a doctor I loved. We spoke a lot about trust and I made an effort to focus on letting my body do what it was supposed to and letting my doctor be my advocate. The VBAC didn’t work out in my case but the entire birthing experience was amazing the second time around!”
9 Ditch Induction
Sometimes getting ahead of the game before a pregnant woman’s cervix is ready to get to work can lead to having a C-section. April M. learned this lesson after giving birth to her son in 2011.
“At my 40 week check-up, my doctor made the decision to induce me. When the drugs had no effect, I was then manually dilated with a cervix balloon. Then there was concern about my baby’s heart rate so I was administered drugs to stop the contractions. At that point, a C-section was really my only option left.”
In hindsight, April feels the induction may have gone against what mother nature had in mind. “I would suggest to anyone who is healthy not to worry about going a week or so past their due date - it’s all pretty much an estimate anyway.” In 2013, April went into labor naturally and ended up giving birth to a daughter via VBAC.
Something worth noting is that even if induction is required, the process can be gently initiated. This may provide a pregnant woman’s body with a little nudge in the right direction rather than forcing her into full labor and delivery mode.
8 Rub One Out
Fact-based evidence has proven that taking the time to massage the perineum (area around the vagina) later in pregnancy can greatly reduce the chances of having to undergo an episiotomy as well as C-section. Between the 34 to 36 week mark of gestation, a woman can help stretch her vaginal tissue hopefully making for a quick and easy birth.
Whether she’s comfortable asking her partner to do the deed or takes care of business solo, it’s recommended that a small portion of each day be set aside in order for some vagina kneading. While there are perineum massage oils available for sale, vitamin E oil or even vegetable oil does the trick as well and are both much cheaper options.
There is also something on the market called an EpiNo which is basically a balloon-type device which a woman inserts into her vagina and as it gradually expands, it stretches her vagina preparing it for impending childbirth. It can be pricey - so the perineal massage may be the better way to go.
7 Work It Out
In some cases, yoga and pilates are often synonymous with C-section prevention. They help build core muscles important to the birthing process, they aid in the development of breathing techniques and basically prepare a woman’s body for what needs to happen.
While April M. can’t be certain of the effect exercise had on her last pregnancy, she notes the fact that during her first she did not exercise (and had a C-section) and during her second, she worked out up until giving birth (and delivered via VBAC). “I was hesitant to exercise while pregnant with my son as I had recently suffered a miscarriage. Two years later, when pregnant with my daughter, I gained ten less pounds. I did CrossFit right up until I went into labor and I believe it made pushing an easier process for me.”
In fact, any exercise (as long as cleared by her healthcare provider) is beneficial in preparing a woman’s body for labor and delivery. Even a brisk walk three times a week will decrease a woman’s likelihood of undergoing a C-section.
6 Doctor Delving
When a normal or low-risk pregnancy results in a C-section, it is often based on a doctor’s judgment. This is why it is extremely important for women to do some legwork before choosing a doctor. There is no shame in finding out how comfortable a doctor is with labor and vaginal delivery and asking about their stats for vaginal and C-section deliveries. And if a doctor does recommend undergoing a scheduled C-section, a woman has the right to seek a second opinion. The same goes for women hoping to have a VBAC - make sure to find a doctor comfortable with the VBAC process who also has a high success rate. According to NPR, in some U.S. states, there are actually financial incentives for doctors to perform C-sections.
Of course, a doctor may recommend a scheduled C-section for a number of viable reasons including:
- The baby’s positioning
- The possibility of birth defects
- The pregnancy is considered high-risk
- There are placental issues present
- The mother has a medical condition
- There are multiple babies
As long as a woman finds a doctor she respects and trusts, hopefully everything else will fall into place.
5 Early Bird Sidestep
There are many controversial topics surrounding pregnancy and childbirth and epidurals happen to be one such example of a contentious issue. Some childbirth experts actually feel that the common usage of epidural as anesthesia is the culprit behind the soaring C-section rate. But in some instances, they are viewed as beneficial in encouraging a vaginal birth. For instance, if a laboring woman is exhausted, administration of an epidural may provide her with some much-needed rest followed by a boost in strength in order for her to continue.
Since an epidural often slows down labor, if a woman receives one earlier than necessary, the baby can end up in distress making an emergency C-section inevitable. This is what happened in Melissa K.’s case.
“I received an epidural because I was experiencing a lot of pain. But after the fact, I realized I was barely dilated three cm. I ended up requiring a C-section. Who can say for sure why it happened - all I know is that I ended up with a healthy daughter and I was grateful for that.” Two years later, Melissa went on to give birth to another daughter via VBAC.
4 Pregnancy Provisions
Diet plays an important part in any woman’s health but where pregnancy is concerned, diet can make or break the birthing process. It may seem obvious that a woman’s diet has the power to keep her pregnant body’s strength and nourishment levels optimal - on a more subtle level, her diet can prepare her for the arduous journey leading to labor and delivery.
While there is no definitive proof, mother of two, Carole R. is a firm believer that her diet played a major role in both her vaginal deliveries. “I’m a definite advocate for the Brewer pregnancy diet. It’s extremely high in protein and basically provided me with detailed meal plans which I followed religiously. I could rest easy knowing that my body was receiving the essential vitamins and nutrients that I needed in order to pave the road toward my best chance at not having to undergo a C-section.”
Specialty diet or not, nutritious meal planning will help keep a fetus to an average size which plays a significant role in delivery method. An overly large baby is often cited as one of the main reasons an emergency C-section is required.
3 Bring A Doula On Board
Having a doula on hand to help with labor and delivery will statistically lower a woman’s odds of having to undergo a C-section. If unfamiliar with the term - a doula is a labor coach who assists during labor and delivery.
A doula prepares a soon-to-be new mom for childbirth by answering questions she or her partner has, easing their fears as well as helping them develop a birthing plan. Once labor is underway, the doula supports and encourages mom-to-be while also filling her in on the process as it occurs.
Research has proven that this continuous woman-to-woman support offered by a doula results in new moms using less pain medication, enduring shorter labors and perhaps most importantly - being less likely to undergo a C-section or vacuum/forceps-assisted delivery.
And because patients of doulas tend to feel more in control and suffer less stress, and anxiety, they are also generally more satisfied with their overall birthing experience.
2 Head Up A Hunting Expedition
According to experts within the medical profession, a major risk for whether or not a woman will end up undergoing a C-section lies in what hospital she ends up delivering at. Consumer Reports conducted its own independent investigation of this assertion by studying 1200 hospitals across the U.S. and found evidence corroborating this theory. Almost half of all C-sections in the States are unnecessary and performed in cases where a baby could have been delivered vaginally.
There are over 200 hospitals located in the United States that have abnormally high rates of performing C-sections for low-risk deliveries. Interestingly enough, not all hospitals are open in publicizing their C-section rates - which begs the question: What do they have to hide? The fact of the matter is that this is vital information which should be readily available for women who want to know.
According to a variety of sources, only hospitals located within Massachusetts and New York are legally required to publish C-section statistics - however many advocacy groups have conducted their own private research with their results posted online. There is also nothing stopping a woman from phoning hospitals in her area to ask about their C-section numbers.
1 Breathe, Relax And Focus
Breathing, relaxation and visualization techniques can actually make the difference between a stressful and anxiety-laden birthing experience or a calm and controlled one. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to these techniques which means it is up to the mom-to-be to figure out what will work best for her.
For any pregnant women hoping to use breathing, relaxation and/or visualization in order to simplify the childbirth process, here are a few tips when getting started:
- Remember to breathe - Deep cleansing breaths are underrated when it comes to the labor process.
- Find a focal point -Whether it's a spot on the wall or looking directly into her partner's eyes.
- Repetition - Choosing a word or brief phrase to repeat during contractions can help calm and soothe the body.
- Visualization - Whether she thinks about where she'd like to be at that moment or pictures exactly what her body is doing, visualization can work wonders in helping women remain calm and feel empowered during labor.
Remember, practice makes perfect. The more a woman executes these techniques beforehand, the more likely her body will automatically respond when labor is upon her.