The idea of a C-section may make Mom to want to hide in her closet and refuse to have the baby? It's perfectly reasonable to have anxiety about having a C-section, but there are plenty of ways to help prevent C-sections for first-time moms. This article is for those first-time moms that have decided they'll do anything to prevent having a C-section. While no one can guarantee whether anyone will end up on the surgical table or not, we can help arm you with the research to help you avoid it.
A C-section isn't the end of the world or any sign of weakness, but it does pose some additional risks that a new mom just doesn't need. Although C-section is a fairly safe procedure overall, any type of surgery always poses the possibility of infection, scar tissue and blood clots. Although not common, blood loss, internal injury, and reactions to anesthesia can also occur, among other complications. C-sections also leave moms with restrictions and physical restraints that leave them unable to perform regular activities for longer during the postpartum period.
Having a C-section will also make the hospital bill substantially higher too since it's a surgery. Although other health factors are much more important than the bill, it is another side effect to consider.
In contrast to other developing countries, the US has a relatively high C-section rate that doesn't necessarily result in better birth outcomes. In fact, the rate of C-section is a staggering 32%, which is almost 1 in 3 babies! In a country that resorts to C-section quite easily, it pays to equip yourself with all the best research and tools available to help avoid C-section.
Here are 15 ways to help decrease the likelihood of having a C-section as a first-time mom:
15Squat To Make Room
You should not only do lots of squats before you go into labor (with your doctor's okay), but you should also do them during labor as well. Working out during your pregnancy will help keep your body strong for labor, especially the parts of your body that you're going to use to push. Squats are one of those exercises that open up your pelvis and help your baby drop with gravity. They also strengthen your legs and core, where the bulk of your pushing strength comes from.
During labor, squatting allows your pelvis to expand by 20-30%. That's a lot of extra space you could use to help the baby come through! Because gravity comes into play, squatting also helps you dilate, lessens stress on the baby, and reduces the need for an episiotomy. Because it keeps you upright and active, squatting also increases the amount of oxygen in your muscles. It can actually reduce the length of your labor. Maybe we should all be laboring with squats!
14Choose A Healthcare Provider Wisely
Choose a doctor or midwife that prefers natural birth over C-section and has a low C-section rate. Yes, you can ask! Knowing a doctor's C-section rate will give you insight into their preference one way or another. Be careful though, because a doctor's C-section rates will be higher if they specialize in high risk births. You just want to make sure you're not hiring a doctor that has a different birth philosophy and resorts to C-section as a precaution, rather than using it as a last resort.
To help avoid C-section, you want a healthcare provider that is supportive of your efforts to birth as naturally as possible. Typically, midwives have lower rates of C-section overall and take a more natural approach. By interviewing several providers, you'll get a feel for their philosophies and positions on C-sections. However, there's no guarantee that your doctor will be the same doctor that actually assists your birth. Remember that you may end up having an on-call doctor with a whole different stance.
13Avoid Induction At All Costs
If you can go into labor naturally, you will have a much lower chance of having a C-section. Induction may start the birth process before your baby is ready to come out, stalling the birth process, and ending in a C-section. Pitocin, for one, tends to bring labor on hard and strong, which increases a mother's desire for an epidural, which subsequently increases C-section rates. Research shows that simply walking through your hospital's doors for induction doubles your chances of having a C-section as a first-time mom. That's a huge jump that gives you every reason to try to avoid induction!
Remember though that most doctors won't let you go more than 2 weeks past your due date or avoid induction if you're showing signs of pre-eclampsia or at high risk for other concerning conditions. In those cases, induction might be in everyone's best interest. However, your doctor might have a few tactics up their sleeves to try to help labor start on its own, such as stripping your membranes.
12Turn The Breech Baby
Most doctors require a C-section if your baby is breech, for good reason. The mortality rate of breech babies born vaginally is as much as ten times higher than with C-section. However, there are some ways to try and get your baby into a head down position. Some doctors have a method for turning babies called external cephalic version, but it sounds pretty grueling. There are many stretches, inversion moves, and other tactics that you might be able to do to help encourage your baby to flip.
Remember that babies flip all the time and may just return to a head-down position any moment. You shouldn't start worrying about whether or not your baby is breech until the third trimester, because the baby could still easily turn itself back around. However, if your baby is breech later in pregnancy, you can certainly have a conversation with your doctor about safe spinning methods to try to turn the baby and perhaps avoid a C-section.
11Hire A Doula
Doulas can help women avoid C-section in a number of ways. They reduce the chances of birth ending in a C-section by a staggering 26%! If you want to better your chances of having a natural birth, hiring a doula appears to be the lucky charm. So, what exactly makes them so incredibly helpful? In short, they provide physical, emotional, and informational support through the entire birth process.
First, a doula is able to coach you through the stages of labor, especially when you're in the midst of overwhelming physical processes that don't allow you to focus. They can talk you through intense contractions, make you feel safe, give you new birthing position ideas, teach you tricks, help you troubleshoot, speak to the nurses and doctors on your behalf, and help you focus on all the strategies you learned before going into labor. This is something your nurses and husband probably won't even be able to do for you. In a medical system that doesn't necessarily share your same birth values, your doula can be your advocate for natural birth.
10Take One Of Those Woo-Woo Baby Classes
You might think hypnobirth, lamaze, and other natural childbirth classes are for crunchy moms and hipsters. They carry a bit of that woo-woo skepticism about them. However, natural childbirth classes can help prepare you for the mental and physical challenges of birth. They allow you to practice proven strategies for pain relief and relaxation before D-day. Natural childbirth classes also help your wrap your mind around what's about to happen in the hospital, so you can mentally prepare.
Natural childbirth classes teach you about what's really going to happen, so you can feel prepared when it happens, in a way that can't quite be conveyed in a book or online. That way, you're not going into your labor blind and you can improve your confidence. Childbirth classes will also prepare you for those conversations you might need to have with your healthcare providers about avoiding a C-section. These classes also put you in a room with other couples in the exact same situation as you and encourage interaction amongst you. Talking to other women, knowing that you're not alone, makes you feel much more prepared. And who knows, one of those friendly faces might even be in the same maternity ward as you.
9Stay Home Until Labor Progresses
The reason to stay home until labor progresses is because it will reduce the number of hours you're in the hospital. Duh, right? But think about it. The fewer hours you're in the hospital, the fewer interventions will be used to try to progress labor. Our first instinct is to run to the hospital at the first signs of labor, but waiting to go to the hospital until you're in full-blown, active labor might reduce your chances of ending up on the surgical table. Once you're in active labor, no one is going to consider "failure to progress" in your case, a highly outdated practice that could lead to C-section. Many times "failure to progress" is more about a healthcare provider's impatience than about actual risk.
Being up and about in the comfort of your own home while you labor, allowing your body to find whatever positions feel comfortable, and not being restricted in any way helps labor progress on its own. At home, no one is there to tell you to lie down and strap you up to monitors, which is the most counterproductive position to be in. You can also relax more being in a familiar place surrounded by your own creature comforts. So, if you feel comfortable and you're able to, you might consider staying home until your contractions are coming on hard and fast. You might save a little money that way too as each intervention and extra day spent at the hospital increases your bill.
8Step Away From The Epidural
Oh, it sounds so nice to be numb from the waist down during the most intense pain of your life, right? But the glorious epidural can backfire in the form of significantly increased C-section risks. The epidural can also prolong labor and lead to more interventions, which have all been shown to increase C-section risk. The epidural also leaves you flat on your back, which again, doesn't allow the baby to follow its natural gravitational path. Getting an epidural is a big C-section risk.
Talk to your doctor or birth team about all the different pain management solutions available to you and at least try to hold off on the epidural past the early stages of labor. You can always try various pain management and relaxation strategies to get you as far as possible before resorting to the epidural. You might even find that you have more resilience than you ever thought possible and bring that baby into the world without an epidural.
7Gain A Normal Amount Of Weight
The American Pregnancy Association recommends gaining 25-35 lbs during pregnancy for a woman that starts out at a "normal" weight pre-pregnancy. You will a probably be directed to gain less if you're overweight and more if you're underweight. Gaining more weight than recommended could result in a bigger baby, which could be harder to push out and subsequently end in a C-section.
Studies show that weight gain over 40 lbs nearly doubles the risk of having a baby over 9 lbs. Not only does a baby over 9lbs increase your risk of having a C-section, but it also increases your risk of developing pregnancy-related health issues and increases your baby's risk of turning into a heavier adult. Talk to your doctor and meet with a nutritionist to discuss calorie and nutrition needs if you're concerned about the amount of weight you need to gain during pregnancy.
6Rest Before And During Labor
Sleep is a beautiful thing, especially in the face of impending labor. Although you probably won't know when you're going to go into labor, being well-rested, if you can, will have a positive effect on your birth outcomes. Restorative sleep will leave you better equipped to manage labor. A good night's sleep and any rest you can get between contractions will help you shore up energy stores for the big push.
Going into the delivery room exhausted will leave you depleted before labor even starts and if you are unable to handle birth, then your healthcare provider might have to resort to a C-section. In fact, research shows pregnant women who averaged 6 hours or less of sleep regularly in late pregnancy had a 4.5 times more likely to deliver via cesarean. Even between 6-7 hours of sleep resulted in C-section rates 3.7 times higher than women who regularly slept over 7 hours. A good night's sleep makes a huge difference in birth outcomes!
5Get The IV
Oh, this sounds a bit counter-intuitive, doesn't it? You'd think getting hooked up to an IV would be considered an intervention that could disrupt your labor. However, if you think about it, it makes total sense. The demands of labor and the nausea and sweating accompanying it can lead to dehydration. It's exactly like a strenuous workout that requires optimal hydration for optimal performance. Even a little bit of dehydration can cause all kinds of disruptions in the body as water is required to make everything work. Research shows that getting an IV reduces the chances of C-section and also shortens labor by an hour on average. Shorter labor and no surgery? Sign us up!
Don't be afraid if your healthcare provider decides to hook you up to an IV if it's going to reduce time in labor and shorten pushing time. You can still get up and move around with an IV attached as well, so it doesn't necessarily relegate you to the bed. You just have to roll the IV down the halls or around the room with you. Now if only we could convince our doctors to let us eat in the delivery room! That concept might not be too far-fetched as research shows proper nutrition during delivery also improves birth outcomes.
4Return Body To An Upright Position
Lying down actually works against our body's natural ability to birth a baby. It's actually the most counterproductive way to have a baby. Keeping your body upright works with gravity and your baby to make way down the birth canal. Walking, shifting, squatting, and moving around allows your baby to adjust and shift as well. Even sitting upright on a birthing ball with your legs wide gives your baby room to get into position. When there is no interference with your movement, you are better able to tune into your own intuition to find the most effective positions. You can't get that kind of effect by lying down.
Anything that keeps you strapped to the bed could interfere with your baby's natural progression down the birth canal. Being strapped to a heart rate monitor, having an epidural, and confined to the bed works against gravity, so unless there is medical necessity to be on bed rest, then you may want to ask your doctor if you can move around if you're concerned about having a C-section.
3Stay Low Risk
Some common medical reasons for having a C-section include dangerous infections, placental problems, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. While you can't prevent all of these complications, you can do your best to minimize your risk, starting early in pregnancy and even before. There are things you can do to manage some of these conditions or help prevent them from progressing.
The best ways to keep your health in check for delivery are to reduce stress, remain active, eat healthy, attend your regular checkups and follow your healthcare provider's guidelines. These sound like simple concepts, but they are instrumental in preventing a myriad of complications during pregnancy and labor, including C-section. If you find yourself faced with one of these health conditions, then talk to your doctor, be proactive, and learn everything you can about managing the conditions.
2Get A Massage
No really! What a better excuse to get a coveted massage than to prepare for labor and delivery! While massage isn't going to directly reduce your chances of having a C-section, it could help reduce them indirectly via stress relief. You see, staying as stress-free as possible and negotiating that stress in the hospital can make you better able to cope with the birthing process. It may help you prolong or avoid an epidural to be in a relaxed state of mind.
That's why a lot of moms are bringing essential oils, soft music, robes and massage oils into the delivery room. Anything to keep you as relaxed as humanly possible during the most intense hours of your life. Even though birthing is intense, there are certainly ways to bring the intensity down and re-ground yourself between contractions. But learning relaxation techniques and lowering stress levels should be started before labor.
1Take A Pee Break
Now, we've shown you the merits of being attached to an IV to stay hydrated and maybe even avoid a C-section. But that also means that fluids are going to be running right through your body and putting extra pressure in a region that doesn't need any more pressure, tyvm. Using the bathroom once an hour will relieve that added pressure and discomfort on your uterus, allowing you to withstand contractions better. Any pain-relieving tricks that you can try to help you forgo the epidural as long as possible will lower your chances of having a C-section.
An empty bladder also allows more room for your baby to pass through the pelvis and prevents the distraction of a full bladder. Do we even have to mention how the sensation of trying to hold your pee in while allowing a baby to come out could get uncomfortable?
Sources: Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Spinning Babies, American Pregnancy Association, Web MD, Science Daily, Healthline, CDC
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