One of the most heartbreaking parts of being a woman is the fact that she's likely to be lied to by the doctor she entrusts her body and baby to during labor and delivery. Did you know that only about 5 percent of C-sections are true emergencies? 3 percent are totally elective and the rest are done for arbitrary reasons- usually for convenience or to protect the doctor’s own interests.
Women are told all kinds of lies as to why they should be gutted like cattle and robbed of the beautiful and uplifting birth experiences they deserve. These lies range anywhere from finding flaws in the woman’s body shape or size to the assumed size of the baby to the always convenient scare about fluctuations in baby’s heart rate. When a doctor is looking to speed up the process and cover their own behind, they can always find a reason to operate. Sadly, few women question what health professionals tell them.
So why does this matter? It matters because hundreds of thousands of women are being put under the knife for an unnecessary major surgery that often comes with a long and painful recovery and a less enjoyable experience of baby coming into the world. This can lead to unnecessary trauma and postpartum depression. Also, after the first C-section, 90 percent of women will be forced to have surgery again with the next pregnancy.
The good news is: with some vigilance and information in hand, this tragedy can be prevented. Here are the facts and sources to get you fully informed on this crucial subject. Read on to find out the 15 lies most women hear about why they need a C-section.
15The Baby Is Dangerously Big
This is a very common and ridiculous lie women are told to allow them to be forced into a C-section. One of the most miraculous things about childbirth is that the woman’s hips are made to expand to allow the baby to come out during birth. While it is possible for a baby to get stuck, this is not a common occurrence like doctors would like us to believe.
Pelvises have not one but three stretching points to make enough room for the baby. These points are full of the hormone relaxin and the pelvis begins expanding at the 34th week of pregnancy. On top of this, the baby’s head is mushy and moldable to allow it to squeeze out of the opening. Four overlapping plates in the baby’s skull move to help the baby make its way into the world.
The biggest baby to be delivered vaginally this year alone was almost 13.5 lbs., proving it’s not only possible but that most moms have nothing to worry about. Most “big” babies do not come close to that size and are assumed “too large” to be delivered vaginally- complete and utter BS.
14She Won't Be Able To Handle Birth
A close friend of mine was told by her pediatrician father that, when it was time for her to have kids, she would “definitely need a C-section” because her hips are “too small” to give birth naturally. We have about the same size hips and I had no trouble pushing out a normal-sized baby. To tell someone who is already a bit of a nervous Nelly that she is incapable of doing something had a profoundly negative effect on her and shaped the way she views herself and her abilities.
As long as mom is healthy and not high-risk, her size and shape as viewed externally have literally no bearing on her ability to push out a baby. Usually, small or average women do not have ridiculously large babies, though there are always a few exceptions. Women deserve the chance to at least attempt to have the type of birth that they desire, without the opinions and decisions of other people unduly influencing the outcome.
13Baby's Heart Rate Is Dangerously Low
Here is another favorite lie doctors and nurses love to tell women in labor. The minute the baby’s heart rate dips when mom pushes, they assume (or pretend) the baby is in immediate distress and emergency surgery is necessary. The truth about heart rate during labor is that it’s going to fluctuate.
The fetal heart rate can be expected to drop when mom is pushing and increase when mom moves. The fetal heart rate is especially sensitive to things like Pitocin and other unnecessary interventions; it’s no wonder the baby responds when you’re pumping mom full of drugs.
Most women are too scared to question the doctor’s advice for fear of appearing uncaring about the wellbeing of the baby, or they believe the doctor has their best interests at heart. Many doctors are more concerned with escaping liability should anything go wrong, and will decide to operate the minute things don’t follow a straight line. You have to remember that birth is a natural process, not a mathematical equation…it should not be expected to follow some perfect chart or graph.
12She Will Be Back On Her Feet In No Time
Many people ignore or underestimate the fact that a C-section is a major surgery that can have long-term or even life-long repercussions. With perfect healing, a C-section can take weeks or even months to heal. If things go wrong, infection, tearing, and other complications can happen. To pretend C-section is preferable to natural birth in terms of healing time is ridiculous.
With my natural birth, I was up and showering minutes after labor. I was tidying up the house the same night. Was I sore and a little depleted? Sure. But I was not bound to a bed, depending on the help of medication and other people to get me through my baby’s first days. I didn’t have to worry about stitches and wounds and restricting my movement. I didn’t need a follow-up doctor’s appointment to make sure my body was okay. Within a week or two, I felt nearly normal, with the exception of slight tenderness. Women need to know that most will bounce back relatively quickly after vaginal birth as compared to C-section.
11Baby Is At Risk Past The Due Date
Did you know you can go a week or two over your due date and there is absolutely no danger to yourself or the baby? That’s right- as long as the placenta is viable (which can be determined with a simple ultrasound); there is no need to induce. Women are often sold the lie that it’s dangerous to go even a second over the due date, and that is total BS.
The due date is often figured out using various calculations based on mom’s last period or assumed date of conception. The OBGYN then uses approximate fetal and stomach measurements to make sure their guesstimate is on track. That’s right… the due date is literally a guesstimate. There have been many times when the due date has to be adjusted because it turns out the doctor has guessed incorrectly.
If you want to make sure the placenta is still viable, just ask for an extra scan. There is no need to get induced and increase your chances of having a C-section. Don’t buy into this lie.
10Because It's Twins
Many doctors like to push for C-section when the mom is pregnant with twins and had a previous C-section, or when one of the twins is breech. Firstly, the dangers of VBAC are grossly exaggerated and mom should be given the chance to try vaginal birth.
Secondarily, fetal position in the womb can change frequently, and it’s not right to assume the baby will stay in the same position they were in weeks or days before labor when the ultrasound was done. A good midwife can often manipulate the stomach and help the babies move to the right positioning, as well.
Being pregnant with twins automatically categorizes women as “high risk” in certain states. While twin births and pregnancies can sometimes be more complicated, it is quite feasible to have a vaginal birth with normal delivery. Don’t let a doctor tell you that you’re at a disadvantage for having the birth experience you want simply because you are having twins.
9Since She Already Had One C-Section...
Another great lie the doctor might tell a mom to force a C-section is that vaginal birth after C-section is hard or dangerous, and that it is much better to keep having C-sections once you’ve had one already. This is sad and untrue because not only is VBAC possible and usually low-risk, it can be safer than getting surgery after surgery on the same area. If you have a healthy pregnancy, a low horizontal uterine scar, and go into labor on your own at term, you have a 70 to 75 percent chance of having a safe and normal birth. Sadly, 90 percent of women who have had a C-section for their first pregnancy will be forced into having another for their second pregnancy.
The more scar tissue you have, the more difficult another surgery in the same area is (and the slower the healing). Doctors like to cut along the same line with C-sections, so second timers can expect a not-so-wonderful experience. To be truly informed about their options, women interested in VBAC should speak to other moms who have been through it. Reassurance and personal success stories can go a long way toward dispelling the fear doctors instill.
8Baby Has An Unstable Heart Rate
Every baby is different. Every labor is different. Babies should not be expected to have perfect heart rates during the birth process. A lot of doctors use “abnormal” heart rate as an excuse to cut mom open. Often times, moms positioning, whether she is pushing, what drugs she has been given, and other factors affect the fetal heart rate.
Instead of assuming the baby is distressed, doctors can (in most cases) wait a little while and see if things normalize. There is a safe range a heart rate can be in, and a few blips of “abnormality” are no reason to instantly fear the worst. Several doctors have admitted that they will advise a C-section if they are the slightest bit iffy about the heart rate, just to protect their professional career. This is despite the fact that research has proven worrying heart rates rarely predicts fetal injury.
7She Won't Have The Strength To Push
Birth requires a lot of energy and the ability to keep pushing on, even when you think you have nothing left. Usually, mom has a reserve of energy that gets used for the last of the pushing. Only the mother will know when she has reached her limit and is “too tired” to keep pushing. That decision should not be made by the doctor, especially one who is nearing the end of his/her shift and therefore trying to save a colleague from taking on a ‘lengthy’ labor.
If mom has been laboring and pushing for a long time and feels that she can’t go on any longer, it’s her right to decide on a C-section. The problem is that women are seldom given the choice to pick what is right for mom or baby. It’s time for us to return to trusting maternal instincts and put doctors and nurses in their places as people who are there to support what the family wants and needs.
6We're Worried About The Baby's Safety
A good blanket lie a doctor can use to force mom into a C-section is to tell her they’re “worried about the baby” due to one or several factors. While the worry might be legitimate in some rare cases, most cases don’t warrant it. Doctors get uncomfortable when things don’t go quickly and smoothly, but what birth isn’t always like this.
Women can labor for hours or days and have a good outcome. Infant heart rates can fluctuate and everything can be perfectly fine. Women can deliver two weeks after the supposed due date and find out the baby is actually right on time. Birth is a deeply mysterious and personal experience for each woman, and no two women will be the same.
If doctors actually watched the entire labor and delivery process of each of their patients, they would have a better understanding of this. Sadly, many just swoop in during the last few minutes and never gain that desperately needed insight.
5This Is A High Risk Pregnancy
If you look hard enough at any woman’s medical history or background, you can likely find something to categorize her as “high risk.” Even something arbitrary, like being over the age of 30, can put mom in this category.
True high risk factors are things like high blood pressure, PCOS, kidney disease, autoimmune disease, infertility, obesity, preeclampsia, and being a first-time mom over 35. If you are placed in the high-risk category for any reason other than this, you should question it. And not every woman who fits one of those categories will need a C-section, either. For example, you can be well overweight (technically obese) and still vaginally deliver a baby safely.
4The Baby Is In A Dangerous Position
This lie is so important it will be mentioned twice. Babies can be breech and then change position in time to be delivered vaginally. This is a fact most doctors do not want you to know. They also hide the fact that the baby can be manipulated in the womb in many cases to put them in a better position (or they can move when mom moves).
Babies can also be born vaginally even if they are breech. It is riskier, yes, but it does not mean surgery is mandatory. Women need to know they have options and the right to question what is told to them. In most instances, they can take a moment to see all sides of the situation and all the options before agreeing to be cut open.
There are natural techniques to get the baby to move into a good position, and medication can also be used to relax the uterus. The chiropractic Webster Breech Technique has an 82 percent success rate with moving breech babies to the correct positioning. These options often remove the ‘necessity’ of surgery and result in a profit loss for the OBGYN, so they are seldom discussed.
3The Umbilical Cord Is Wrapped Around The Neck
If I had a dollar for each of my mommy friends that were forced into C-section because of this reason, I would be filthy rich. This is one of the most common lies told to delivering moms. It’s a convenient way to explain a fluctuating heart rate and it’s a great way to scare mom into quickly agreeing that surgery is needed.
The truth to this is that there is no way to know for certain if the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck until they’re delivered, and it is often safe to deliver the baby vaginally and then unwrap the cord.
Up to a third of all babies will have their umbilical cord around the neck at birth. Midwives report that the cord will typically be wrapped around the baby's neck loosely, and that it can simply be slipped off. So you see, this is not always a cause for worry.
2The Baby May Die
No woman in her right mind would question a doctor’s decision if they were told ignoring it could cause the baby to die. Sadly, this scare tactic is used frequently to silence women and get them to go along with an unwanted C-section.
Any of the previously mentioned factors can be used to worry the mom and make her believe C-section is the only delivery option. For a doctor desperate to hurry up labor or make a quick buck off of surgery, this is the perfect lie. As unwilling as women might be to hear this, the fact is that doctors make hundreds [if not thousands] more off a C-section than a vaginal delivery, and hospitals make thousands more. They also found that doctors were less likely to opt for surgery on their fellow doctor friends, perhaps because they were not easy targets.
While one would hope money is not the motivating factor to such over-eagerness to operate, the statistics seem to say otherwise. The more medically informed you are, the better equipped you will be to stand up to this injustice.
1Surgery Will Spare You
If you’re worried about preserving your vaginal elasticity and youthful appearance, you might buy into the lie that “your female parts will never be the same after giving birth.” This scare tactic isn’t true for a lot of women. If you don’t tear, there’s a strong chance things will go right back to the way they were just a few short months after baby is born.
Even those who tear during birth can be stitched up and “like new” when all is said and done. The female body is a very resilient and amazing thing, and women don’t have to buy into the notion that surgery will preserve their bottom area. And if a man values a woman less after she gives birth (because of slight or perceived changes to their sex life), that’s not a healthy partner to be with, anyway. Take it from someone who has been there… things were normal if not better after the break of childbirth.
Sources: BellyBelly, Huffington Post, Evidence Based Birth, VBAC.com, Live Science, Mama Birth, NICHD.nih.gov, Steady Health, NPR.org, Celestial Midwifery
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