You may be well-aware that C-sections are on the rise in Western countries. Many experts believe that a good chunk of these C-sections are actually unnecessary. However, due to the many precautions and complications that health care professionals have to consider, some just can't help but call a go for the knife.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that you have absolutely no control as to whether you get a C-section or not. After all, childbirth is not a game of chance and you have just as much control over the odds as anyone else.
While the health care system is still revising its policies to avoid unnecessary C-sections, there are several things that you can do to lower your chances of getting one that you don't need.
15 Educate Yourself
First of all, educate yourself. Take a natural birthing class, if you like. Schedule a special session with a doctor, a midwife or a doula so they can run you through what to expect. This should include balanced information on the indications of C-section and when it's unsafe to have a vaginal birth.
You can also supplement this information by reading the wealth of material online and in your library on childbirth. Knowing what to expect, as well as your options, can help arm you to steer clear of an unnecessary scar.
14 Make a Birth Plan
We always put this in our childbirth preparation articles, but we just can't stress the importance of getting a birth plan done as early in your pregnancy as possible. This allows you to select your delivery method of choice, as well as your preferred pain relievers and backup plans. This not only opens your doors to doing more research on the variety of possibilities that may occur during your childbirth, it also allows you to discuss in advance with your health care provider just how realistic your plans are.
13 Check Local C-Section Rates
Some states or even hospitals may have higher C-section rates than others. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that you're absolutely going to get a C-section if you give birth in that hospital. It may just mean that it is a specialty hospital where many mothers who legitimately need C-section get referred to. However, it does also mean that doctors and staff there are more accustomed to C-section procedures and will be more cautious about every single sign that they encounter.
If you can, choose a good hospital with higher rates of vaginal delivery. Consider a home birth, if you're having a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy. However, in some cases, your best option might still be a hospital with high C-section rates. In that case, you may want to come in a bit later into your labor, which we'll discuss in a while.
12 Check Your Doctor
You might want to ask your doctor about her stand on the rising rate of C-sections. If you are having a high-risk pregnancy, you may of course want to get a doctor who veers on the side of caution. With low-risk pregnancies, however, a doctor who likes to give mothers as much time as it is possible to safely have a vaginal delivery could be the better option.
But no matter what side of the spectrum your doctor falls under, you'd best talk to her about your own preferences and what you can do to ensure this outcome.
11 Get a Doula
A doula can be one of your most valuable companions in helping you through getting a vaginal delivery. A doula is a childbirth expert, although not necessarily a health care professional, who has helped assist numerous vaginal deliveries. They can be nuanced in their ability to distinguish a delivery that is safe to go through vaginally, as well as one that will need additional intervention.
In addition, a doula can guide you through childbirth breathing and pushing, which can make things surprisingly easier for you when the time comes.
10 Get Your Prenatal Checkups
It may be tempting to skip medical care altogether to avoid an unnecessary C-section. However, it's still extremely important to get your prenatal checkups. This is because many of the factors that might result in a C-section later on are detectable during the months leading up to labor and delivery. Some conditions that put you at risk can be treated and controlled early on, reducing your chance for a C-section. In addition, your health care provider may be able to give you sound tips and advice to maintaining good health throughout your pregnancy.
9 Control Blood Sugar
This piece of advice is specifically for women who are diabetic or acquire gestational diabetes, as most non-diabetic mothers' bodies are able to control their blood sugar levels on their own. Consistently high blood sugar levels can lead to macrosomia, or a baby that is large for its age. This can pose a problem if the child cannot fit through your birth canal. In addition, you might have a slower recovery, whether you give birth vaginally or through C-section, if you have high blood sugar levels during childbirth.
It is therefore necessary to safely control your blood sugar early on. Some mothers can do this through diet and exercise, as well as pregnancy-safe medications. In some cases, however, it may not be possible to control your blood sugar despite your efforts and you might therefore need to consider the reality that a C-section could be safer for you.
8 Prenatal Exercises
Trust us, those prenatal exercises really do work. They tone and strengthen the muscles in your abdomen, back and pelvic floor. Think of yourself as a pro athlete preparing for the marathon of childbirth. Doing prenatal exercises regularly will help you make those vital pushes to help get your little one out easier. They will also help you recover faster and experience less pain after delivery.
But if you've been slacking over the past few months, don't despair! It's never too late to start on the prenatal exercises because, after all, you need all the strength you can get!
7 Turn That Breech
If your baby lies in a breech position, or one that is not ideal for childbirth, you can still get your doctor or a midwife to turn her into a better one. This procedure, called external cephalic version, is usually done in late pregnancy. This is because early in your pregnancy, your baby will still float around and change position. A vast majority of babies assume the left occiput anterior position, the easiest one for delivery, late in pregnancy. If your baby hasn't, well, it's not too late.
If you know your baby is in a breech position and your baby has not yet engaged in your pelvis or "lightened," you might want to discuss this possibility with your doctor.
6 Stay Home as Long as Possible
If you're having a low-risk pregnancy, try to stay home for as long as possible. Depending on the institution, sometimes the longer you stay in the delivery room, the greater the chances that an induction or a C-section will be recommended. Some midwives recommend waiting until you have had contractions that are five minutes apart for some time. This is, of course, granted that you live a manageable distance from the hospital or birthing center.
5 Avoid Induction
We mentioned in the previous point that you should also avoid induction of labor. We'd like to emphasize that this is avoiding it when it is not medically necessary. Some providers will recommend an induction for convenience. Perhaps your doctor is away at a certain date or the institution is not well-staffed during the nighttime. You should probably say no to this, unless you live in an area where health care services are really hard to access.
Inductions are mostly effective, although it may involve its own risks. However, in the case when an induction is failed, it may have triggered conditions in which it is necessary to give birth within the next few hours, possibly requiring a C-section.
4 Or Try Natural Induction
You might also want to opt for non-invasive induction methods to help trigger a post-term baby. While there isn't yet any concrete evidence that these work, it's still worth giving them a try. Of course, make sure to consult your doctor or midwife so you have backup when necessary and to ensure that your choice of induction is safe for your situation. Natural induction methods include nipple stimulation and having sex. Other methods include the use of castor oil and evening primrose oil, as well as the consumption of dates.
3 Ask Questions
If you're not sure about any part of your health care provider's recommendations, whether for a C-section, an induction or pain relief, make sure to ask questions so that you understand it more. It's important that you understand what's going on, from the general situation to all the risks and benefits of every decision. This is so you can be better equipped to make decisions for yourself and your baby.
2 A Later Epidural
You might opt for an epidural as a primary or backup method of pain relief. One thing you might want to do in order to avoid a C-section is to opt to have the epidural later into labor, when the pain becomes unbearable. This is because epidurals are believed to make contractions a bit weaker. This can mean it will take a longer time for your baby to come out.
For the optimal balance between pain relief and a speedy vaginal delivery, get your epidural later in the process.
1 Get a Second Opinion
If a C-section might be necessary and you still have time, it's perfectly fine to get a second opinion from another qualified, well-trusted expert. Some hospitals even require another doctor to approve of procedures like induction or C-sections before they're performed. This is simply to reduce the threshold bias that each professional may inevitably have when it comes to drawing the line between a vaginal delivery and a C-section. A different doctor may tell you that it's OK to wait it out for longer, or may agree with your first doctor on the necessity of a C-section. It just helps to have another neutral opinion, especially in a situation where you might be afraid yourself that saying no to a C-section now might have unwanted consequences.