Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Myths about C-section

There has been a lot of discussion of elective non-emergency C-sections on this blog lately. My interest in the procedure was due to my sister's decision to give birth through a scheduled C-section. This personal decision on her part has led to many people approaching her (and me, as well) to tell us a whole bunch of scary stories about C-sections, which later on turned out to be nothing but myths.
So here are the myths and the reality of an elective C-section. Obviously I am not talking about cases with complications that can, of course, happen with any method of giving birth.
Myth 1: The recovery period is very long. Wrong! If everything goes well (and once again, things can go wrong with any method of giving birth), the recovery period is very short and involves no excruciating pain or loss of basic functions.
Myth 2: You will not be able to walk for weeks. Not true at all. My sister started walking several hours after the operation and had no trouble taking walks or doing anything she needed to do from the very beginning.
Myth 3: You will not be able to lift your baby. This is an egregious lie if there ever was one. My sister started lifting her baby from day one and continues doing so. 
Myth 4: The pain is excruciating. The final stage of the operation is a little painful, but the painful part lasts only 10 minutes or so.
Myth 5: You are left with a disfiguring scar. Today, 8 days after the operation, the scar is almost invisible.
Myth 6: You will not be able to bond with your baby as effectively. Both my sister, who had the C-section, and her fiance, who obviously did not, have bonded with the baby extremely well. The nurses and doctors who did the psychological evaluation observed in their report that their bond as a family was extremely strong.
So if you are thinking about having an elective C-section and saving yourself the pain, the time, and the trauma to your genitals but are scared by the horrible stories people tell you about the procedure, I hope you might be reassured by this information. I was, of course, personally present in the hospital starting from two hours after the operation and can testify to the absolute veracity of everything said above.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

What'll be nice is when babies can just be grown in artificial wombs.

My girlfriend simply doesn't like kids, but I think the main reason she'd never get pregnant is the idea of carrying something like that inside her simply horrifies her.

Artificial wombs would eliminate that problem, though the technology might be impossible. (I give it about a 20% chance.)

-Mike

Clarissa said...

I absolutely agree. I have very high hopes of cloning in this respect. This will allow men to have children on their own, which is another great bonus.

Also, gay couple will benefit from this greatly.

V said...

Not a myth (as far as I know): in the US, health insurance providers charge you higher rates (or refuse to ensure you altogether) if you had a C-section. Unless you work for a large company or university and are subject to group rates and rules.

Clarissa said...

That is, sadly, very true. It is all part of the anti-C-section campaign that I discussed in my previous posts. Somehow, however, there are many people who honestly believe that the opposite is the case and that there is a huge pro-C-section propaganda. Where they see it is another question altogether. probably just in their heads.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to your sis and her fiance on their new baby! I'm glad she had a rapid recovery. Do you think there is a danger, however, extrapolating from her one experience to ALL c-section surgeries/recoveries? I know just as many moms who had horrendous recoveries (persistant pain, wound infection, internal scar adhesions, external scarring, etc.) as had easy ones like your sister.

Clarissa said...

And I know tons of women who could barely sit a week after a vaginal birth.

As I said, I am not talking about cases with complications that can and often do happen with every way of giving birth.

Amanda said...

I feel like a lot of these myths are the result of stories from the "ye olden days". My mother had a long recovery period, horrible pain, and a scar that is still there, long, wide, and purple.

Medical technology has improved though, but I feel like the horror stories of the mothers of women my age are what so many people base their judgement on.

Anonymous said...

I congratulate you on a birth of the niece or the nephew. Happiness and well-being to your family, and the kid let grows happy and healthy.
As to a C-section, it agree that myths are born from a reality 20-30 summer prescription. Now the medicine has left far forward and I think С-sections does not create to women of all above described problems,
But I personally do not see in it any sense if there are no medical indications. It is possible to give birth today without a pain quite natural way from good anaesthesia. Personally I did not feel of any pain 17 years ago, giving birth daughter, 5 years ago, giving birth to the son. And any negative consequences from vaginal birth at me too was not.

NataliaV

cesarean debate said...

Hello Clarissa,
I've just seen your post and thought you might be interested in taking a look at my blog - cesareandebate.blogspot.com

I am editor of the website electivecesarean.com, and have an online petition to help allow all women to have the choice of a cesarean delivery - http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/prophylactic-cesarean-delivery/signatures.html

Both planned vaginal delivery and planned cesarean delivery (planned being the operative word) have their own risks and benefits, and it should be up to an individual woman to decide which set of risks and benefits are most palatable to her.

Clarissa said...

NataliaV: this is a very North American issue where women who want to have elective C-sections are bullied and told all kinds of scary stories. So I try to tell a different side of things to counteract these C-section scaremongers. :-)

Clarissa said...

cesareandebate: this is a great initiative!! I will put a link to it on my blog. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

O My God, really all that in that we trusted it a myth. A myth that Northern Amerika - 2 most democratic and free countries. It probably one of the strongest my disappointments.

By the way, a control word which to me now the computer suggests to type: UZASS )))

NataliaV

Clarissa said...

When my students get on a soapbox and start declaring: "In this country we have freedom!", I always baffle them by asking "Freedom from what?" :-)

V said...

Yeah, that uncritical perception of freedom is disturbing... I have the following story to tell. On September 11, 2001, we, like everybody else, were watching TV at work... And an American Ph.D. student (of which we had very few, by the way) asked with all seriousness and emotion appropriate to situation - "why do those people hate our freedoms so much???". Of course it was not the best moment to reeducate the Americans (and I apologized to him later), but somehow I could not hold myself... So I informed the guy that a) there are many countries in the world which have equal amount or maybe even more freedoms than the US, but nobody tries to blow up Amsterdam or Frankfurt, and that b) "those people" do not care at all about the freedoms Americans have inside their own country, they are upset about US supporting Israel or something like that...

Also, at some other point, an American KGB officer by the name of Murphy :) required me to fill the form about whom did I talk at a certain international conference (in Canada, for Pete's sake, not in Iran), citizens of what country they were, and what did we discuss... And the subject of my research and of the conference was not anything of military importance. On a good side, nothing bad happened to me when I wrote back to that Murphy guy that I do not care what country all those conference participants were from...

Clarissa said...

OMG, are you serious?? I mean, about the Murphy individual. Some people have nothing better to do with their time and resources than question poor inoffensive scientists.

TheFeministBreeder said...

Have you had a cesarean? Any birth? If you ever did, you'd start to realize that whatever you think your friend/sister/coworker may have went through is NOT any evidence to support a claim. The risks of cesarean are well documented, and women every day are being forced into cesareans they neither want or need because doctors make tons of money on them and find them more convenient. It's a massive epidemic that is most certainly a feminist issue.

It's unfortunate to see other "feminists" write about things they have A.) neither personally experienced nor B.) have no real understanding of. All you're doing is contributing to the hundreds of thousands of women are are sliced and diced against their will.

Good job there. Now please stop talking about surgical birth being all kittens and roses until you actually go through it. Or read this for some real feminist perspective on the issue.

http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/03/09/oncecesarean-rarelychoice

Danielle said...

As a mother, who has had TWO c-sections, your "myths" are not myths by any means, they are all true and factual statements that many mothers who have cesarean sections go through, including myself.

I have had two c-sections, one not medically necessary, and one medically necessary, and my recovery was much longer than an average vaginal birth. I may have been able to get up and walk, but it was horribly painful to walk, making me not want to move at all.
I have an ugly scar, which has led to a pouch I cannot get rid of no matter how many sit ups and exercises I do. As is the same experience of the vast majority of cesarean mothers.

Yes, the pain IS excruciating, I would NEVER elect to go through it. I have had various procedures in my life, including kidney stone surgery multiple times, my wisdom teeth out, etc. The c-section by far takes the cake for most painful.

The not being able to lift your baby is also true. The first week I was home with both of my kids, I was unable to pick my baby up without having assistance from someone. I was not allowed to carry him in his carseat because of weight restrictions, I wasn't able to function as a new mom, period.

And the bonding is also true. I have also suffered from PPD because I was not able to truly bond with either of my kids. I have struggled about not feeling like their real mother, it was almost like someone handed me a baby, told me it was my baby and sent me on my way.

Your post is ignorant, and it is offensive to mothers who have gone through everything you have called a "myth". Maybe not ALL women go through it, but there is a LARGE population of mothers who have had c-sections who DO go through it. The fact that you have never had one, or given birth period makes your opinion basically null and void.

I hope you take the time to address your falsehoods and post an apology to all of those you have offended.

Marcy said...

I think it's awful that people will scare others with their horror stories like that... seems pretty darn inconsiderate and plain rude.

That said, I do think it's important to mention that while c-sections are *relatively* safe, they do pose risks that need to be considered. For example, the risk of maternal death is higher with a c-section (18 deaths per 100,000 births, vs 6 deaths/100,000 for vaginal). Also, on average the recovery time for a c-section is longer than vaginal birth (4-6 weeks for c-section vs 1-2 weeks for vaginal birth). There are also a few additional risks for the baby, like higher chance of respiratory problems. Also, anyone who's planning to have multiple children (more than 2 or so) should look into the added complications that c-sections bring to each and every future pregnancy and birth (for example: the placenta can attach to the scar tissue causing serious complications during birth; repeat c-sections are trickier to perform thanks to scar tissue on the uterus).

Here are a few websites that explain more about the risks of a c-section:

http://www.childbirth.org/section/risks.html

http://www.webmd.com/baby/tc/cesarean-section-risks-and-complications

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/c-section/MY00214/DSECTION=risks

There are many times when c-sections are needed and result in better outcomes for the mom and baby. But, anyone considering an elective c-section should weigh these risks carefully, because they are real. I'm not trying to fear-monger, but I think it can be just as big a disservice to ignore the risks involved with a c-section birth.

Anonymous said...

You know what i cant stand? all the moms that make you feel terrible if you did have a csection,like you failed as a mom or something.

My daughters heartbeat was failing during my labor and so i had to have one because they didnt think she would survive the natural birth especially because despite many attempts at help my cervix was taking way to long to dialate and they couldnt break my water.

Then with my second a week before his due date they did an ultra sound and said he was having heart palpatations so i just went along with a planned csect. because he was already having heart issues a week before.

now if i ever have another baby, i would just have a planned csect. because after 2 im concerned with my uterus being week from scarring and have heard storys about rupturing due to the weekend tissue if you try to deliver naturally after csects.

yes i know some woman have done it just fine but i just dont want to risk it, i feel its a safer choice to go with a planned csection.

Thank god for doctors now a days or so many woman would die during child birth and so many babys would die during delivery. But it does make me feel bad that i wasnt able to deliever naturally and in fact most moms i know who had to have a csect. wish they could have delivered naturally. Its a little surpising to me that a mom to be would want a csect. as her first plan for birth.

for most moms they just didnt have a choice in the first place or they already had one before so they choose to just go with them after that because they feel its the safest choice they can make to make sure they themselfs and there baby make it through alive.

on another note, my csections all tho scary because heck they are going to cut me open, were actually very peaceful. i dont recall feeling any pain whatsoever not even in the last ten minutes, just some discomfort when they were pushing on my stomach and a little sick to my stomach after they were done. i couldnt really walk until the next morning but then i could get up slowly and walk slowly around and with both of mine within 2 days i was pretty much back to fine, just careful still for awhile because obviously after going through that im not going to be doing any super heavy lifting. And my csect. scar? You can BARELY see it only if you get up rigth next to it.

Clarissa said...

Ladies: there are NO risks to elective C-sections even remotely comparable to the risks of the vaginal birth.

Read the blog of Dr. Amy Tuteur, who's a Harvard educated ob-gyn and a well-known writer on these subjects and who knows more about this stuff than you and I combined and multiplied by 147:

http://skepticalob.blogspot.com/

Danielle said...

Aww, someone who hasn't learned that Dr. Amy is the laughing stock of the internet yet.

Well hun, let me go ahead and break down the risks of an elective cesarean from some reputable sources.

http://www.childbirth.org/section/risks.html

http://www.marchofdimes.com/pnhec/240_1031.asp

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=3291512&page=1

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/441201

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=elective-cesarean-sections-are-too-2010-01-11

Thanks, but I will take what The World Health Organization and other reputable medical sources have to say over "Dr" Amy.

Also, labeling any of the above as myths is ignorant, as I stated in my first comment, because many women go through them.

You should be ashamed to call yourself a feminist.

Clarissa said...

Danielle: why are you so angry? Is it because other women might decide what to do with their bodies without your input?

Noody is contesting your right to give birth (or not to give birth) in any way or manner you wish. Why do you want to impose your method on other women?

On this blog, I already shared that the ONLY story of a childbirth that was not plagued with complete horror was that of my sister who had an elective C-section. That's a fact of my reality. I accept that you and your friends had different experiences. Good for you. But I can't disregard what I have been able to observe with my own eyes in the course of my entire life.

That's why I totally understand if a woman wants to avoid all that pain and suffering and have an elective C-section.

Mny women also have busy lives. They simply can't afford to sit there waiting to go into labor and then suffer through 40+ hours of labor. So they opt for elective C-sections. Why is that bothering you so much, is beyond me. It's their bodies, let them do whatever they wish.

Clarissa said...

"You know what i cant stand? all the moms that make you feel terrible if you did have a csection,like you failed as a mom or something."

- I couldn't agree more. It's like there is some weird pissing contest in this matter.

What I observed coincides almost completely with your experiences, Anonymous. Thanks for sharing.

Clarissa said...

"You know what i cant stand? all the moms that make you feel terrible if you did have a csection,like you failed as a mom or something."

- I couldn't agree more. It's like there is some weird pissing contest in this matter.

What I observed coincides almost completely with your experiences, Anonymous. Thanks for sharing.

Donna Bruschi said...

"Many women also have busy lives. They simply can't afford to sit there waiting to go into labor and then suffer through 40+ hours of labor. So they opt for elective C-sections."

There may be some very compelling reasons to have an elective c-section.However, in comparison to the 60,480 hours you will spend caring for your baby in the first year, alone, saving 40+ hours in labor is not one.

Clarissa said...

Some women are lucky enough not to be alone in raising their children. The partner of the woman described in this post (my sister) is starting his paternity leave to take care of his daughter.

I do agree, however, that the situation is a lot more complex for single mothers. In the US, where the situation with daycare and maternity leaves (or absence thereof) is dire, this is a huge problem.

I have written about it before (see here for example: http://clarissasbox.blogspot.com/2009/06/working-parents.html) and plan to do so in the future.

Anonymous said...

Hi all!

Well, I am the infamous sister who dared have an elective c-section, so I guess I do then have the right to share my own experience. :) So, here goes.

To whoever mentioned an ugly scar: celebrate the fact that it's on your pelvis and not between your legs. Ouch.

To whoever mentioned not being able to carry your baby in a car seat because of weight restrictions, you must have either had other problems, a gigantic baby or an unusual car seat. You are certainly allowed to care for your baby post c-section and I carried my little one in her car seat just fine. In any case, I was pain-free after a few days and had no reason to schlep my baby around in car seats during that time anyway, except for the trip home from the hospital.

By the way, if you had had a rupture or an episiotomy, you would not be exactly running up and down the stairs either. As a matter of fact, I was walking again the same day I gave birth. On the other hand, a friend of mine who had had a vaginal birth, shared with me a week after her labour that she was finally able to sit again. A week later! Once again, ouch. Oh, and I have numerous stories of friends who had awful recovery from their stitches down there. Stories of babies being hurt while the doctors had to use forceps to drag them out (again to avoid c-section at all costs). A recent story I was told of two twins, one of whom died during labour and the other one was born with permanent neurological damage because the labour went on for too long. So, ladies, it's not all peachy with the so-called natural birth either.

To whoever mentioned the ugly pouch, I hardly have any. Not more than any of my friends who were pregnant, saw their belly balloon up and have not yet said good bye to the last couple of pounds. But by looking at my belly you could never tell I had a baby.

To whoever mentioned the risks of a C-section, you are right. There are risks. As there are risks associated with vaginal births - risks that for me personally outweighed anything else. And of course no one can argue with the FACT that labour is much more traumatic for an infant than a c-section. There are SO many risks to an infant that are associated with vaginal birth. Whereas the risk of breathing difficulties associated with being born through a c-section is miniscule. My little princess was born not looking as though she went through a war zone. She was pink and round and not puffy and swollen and scary looking. :)

Marcy, you quote death stats for vaginal births vs c-section births. But come one. Women do not die BECAUSE of a c-section. The stats include women who were already in distress, had serious life-threatening medical conditions, had an accident, etc. etc. etc and ended up having an emergency c-section as a last recourse, but unfortunately died anyway. That is not stats for elective c-sections.

Look, I do not think that everyone should have a c-section. Far from it. And neither does the author of this amazing blog. Rather, we believe that women should have a CHOICE. I have friends who would only have a vaginal birth and I celebrate that. I have friends who would not even use an epidural and I celebrate that. Personally, I chose a c-section and it was the most beautiful experience for ME. So, why do so many other women attack me for it? Why are you trying to rob me of my personal choice?

I will leave you with this. I am sure most of you can relate to the fact that pretty much the first question every single hospital visitor asks us after we give birth is: So, would you have another baby? Most women say 'never again'. Then of course memory fades, the beauty of having a baby takes over & women procreate again. In my case, however, I did not hesitate. I said yes the same day, a month later and now months after having gone through it. I am happy I chose a c-section, so eat your hearts out. :)))

Danielle said...

I was wondering if you are going to publish my reply to your comment? Of course if you want to have a good unbiased discussion that is what the right thing to do would be.

Maybe that is not what you are looking for?

Anonymous said...

Danielle, as the author of this blog clearly states again and again and again, she does her best to approve comments rapidly. The only time she does not post a comment is when it is racial or homophobic slur. It seems clear to me that she posts all of the comments that disagree with what she writes, even when people (such as yourself) seem a bit overly aggressive. But you cannot expect her to sleep with the blackberry attached to her fingers to approve the comments 24/7, can you? Deep breaths now, deep breaths...

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention one more thing:

PPD is a serious condition and it affects more women than the stats even show. However, it is naive to suggest that PPD happens as a result of a c-section. There are SO many reasons (apart from chemistry, hormones, the major transformation we go through, sleep deprivation, etc). A woman might be prone to PPD following a c-section because she is disappointed. And the reason she is disappointed is the constant brainwashing that if you have a c-section then somehow you did not have the REAL experience and do not deserve the badge of honor that comes with it. In my case, I would have most definitely had PPD had I been forced to push my baby out. Even then, it is easy to blame PPD on how labour went as opposed to just admitting the simple fact: despite all the movie clips and celebrity interviews, it might take more than just a moment to fall in love with a baby and bond. It is a huge transformational event and if women felt that they had their OWN choices and did not feel the overwhelming weight of everyone else's expectations, I think maybe (just maybe, but who knows) there would be fewer cases of PPD.

Danielle said...

My comment was not homophobic, or any kind of slur. It provided accurate information which proved her wrong, which is clearly why she didn't approve it.

Not surprised though.

Anonymous said...

Danielle, what are you talking about?

you called her ignorant and shamed her and it's posted above

Clarissa said...

Danielle:

if a comment of yours did not publish, that was not done intentionally. Te volume of visits to the blog has been very high recently, so maybe some glitch made your comment disappear. feel free to submit it again and I promise to post it.

Sorry for any inconvenience but technology does what it wants from time to time.

kelly @kellynaturally said...

Instead of, "So here are the myths and the reality of an elective C-section." perhaps what you SHOULD have said was, "So here are the myths and the reality of MY SISTER'S elective C-section."

You can't extrapolate fact from one story. Doesn't each woman have the right to her own birth experience? Not one birth is the same as any other. Not even one. Of course, as you haven't experienced birth yourself, perhaps its easier for you to assume that birth fits neatly into boxes.

As for your "myths":
1) "The recovery period is very long" The recovery period IS in fact longer for cesarean mothers than for vaginally birthing mothers. As evidenced by the fact that c-sec mothers have required extended hospital stay, are given rules on how long they must wait before climbing stairs, lifting certain amounts of weight, & driving cars. Maternity leave is extended in some cases for women with c-sections. The fact is, recovery from a major surgery takes longer than a typical vaginal birth.
2) "You will not be able to walk for weeks" Frankly, I've never heard this myth. Regardless, how quickly a woman can be up on her feet post-C depends on the woman. YES, Dr's encourage you to get up & moving around in the first 24 hours to decrease the risk of blood clots (caused by the surgery you just had). The first walk can be easy, hard, excruciating, depending on the woman. Some women have higher pain threshholds, some are more receptive to pain medications after birth. Walking up/down stairs is very painful the first week or so in my experience, and I consider my recovery from both c-sections "easy".
3) "You will not be able to lift your baby" Depends on what you mean by lift. Have someone place the baby on your lap & you lift him to your breast or up on your shoulder for burping? Sure, no problem (for me). But lifting baby out of the basinette next to your bed, or lowering baby down in her crib? In the first few days post-c, its nearly impossible as you can't bend & lift that way. Your abdominal muscles have been sliced into which affects your range of motion drastically.

continued in the next comment because your form won't let me post long-windedly

kelly @kellynaturally said...

...continued from previous comment:



4) "The pain is excrutiating". Again, depends entirely on the woman and her pain threshhold & tolerance for pain medications. I did not find the pain excrutiating, unless I let my pain medication lapse (which, when you're feeling good, you tend to forget how much pain you are and you start to think only of how nasty the side effects of the narcotic are - dizziness, short term memory loss, feeling of fogginess, nausea, etc. - and wonder if you can stretch it just another hour or so with advil - until the pain hits you like a hammer as the narcotic wears off). Yes, that was excrutiating. Because I just had major abdominal surgery. Ever wonder why some women think vaginal births are a breeze and others are terrified? Pain is subjective.
5) "You are left with a disfiguring scar". My scars are very neat, clean, & faded. I healed very quickly. Some women's scarring permanently changes the color of their skin, some scarring is puffy or knotted, or pulls at their surrounding skin. Additionally, each woman's interpretation of her own body is individual. For some, ANY large scar in a visible place on her body would be disfiguring.
6) "You will not be able to bond with your baby effectively". There are many factors which increase your chances for early bonding. Many of those factors - like immediate skin-on-skin and breastfeeding initiation - are lost when you undergo a c-section. You are on high doses of narcotic pain medication, which dulls the senses, can make both mom & baby tired & listless. Drugs can interfere with breastfeeding latch on as drugged, sectioned babies are less alert, & have a weaker sucking instinct than those born vaginally. Also, mothers after c-sections are often encouraged to sleep more, put their babies in the nursery, so they can RECOVER FROM MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY. These things all can interfere with bonding.

Clarissa said...

Welcome back, Kelly, your perspective is always appreciated.

On the subject of bonding: my father (who neither gave birth to me nor breatsfed me, obviously) and I bonded perfectly. And my mother (who gave birth to me vaginally) and I never actually did. :-)

So I will never buy into the story of vaginal births and breastfeeding having anything to do with bonding.

Sara said...

You are aware that the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) states that a vaginal birth is ALWAYS less risky than a planned or unplanned c-section, right? And that even OBs refuse to associate with Dr. Amy because she's such a nutjob?

I am happy for your sister that her c-section went well and her healing and bonding haven't been affected by it. I am also happy that the scientifically-confirmed risks that she took on for her and her baby all turned out well. It sounds like this was a good decision for her and she is pleased with the results.

However, stating that it is a choice equal to or better than normal (vaginal) birth is wrong, and no respected medical association, journal, or professional would ever agree with your commentary on the subject. In fact, no one who has read a single research study on planned c-section vs planned vaginal birth would agree with you that it was an even playing field.

Normal birth will always be a better choice for mom and baby because WOMEN'S BODIES ARE NOT BROKEN. We don't need a doctor relieving our pain, we don't need a doctor to have a baby in comfort, our vaginas are perfectly suited for that work on their own, and we certainly don't need any women perpetuating the myth that a healthy woman needs surgical help giving birth to a healthy baby.

And sadly, I really think that is feminism you will never understand. So feel free to sign up for your elective c-section. It may be a good choice for you. But don't call it a feminist choice.

Clarissa said...

A few short decades ago, all "respected medical associations, journals, or professionals" insisted that breast-feeding was the devil, so nobody breast-fed. Now it became fashionable to say the opposite. There are also money-hungry doulas who push this idea of "natural" childbirth like there is no tomorrow.

The C-section itself is not feminist. What is feminist, however, is the belief that any woman has the right to choose what to do with her own body. That's the basic right that I defend. I believe that each woman is capable of making the important decision of when, how or whether to give birth on her own.

Clarissa said...

I am shocked by how many people come here to insist that they know the right way for OTHERS to give birth. Is anybody preventing you from giving birth the way you want? No? Then why do you want to prevent others from making this deision for themselves???

This is truly mind-boggling to me.

I can't imagine on what planet it would occur to me to go to another woman's blog to convince her not to give birth vaginally but to have a C-section instead because I know what's better for her body.

Anonymous said...

to whoever mentioned the side effects of drugs: c-section is done with an epidural!! so, for a woman who delivers vaginally but uses the epidural the same side effects apply
are we also against epidurals now??

btw, YES, we DO need a doctor to deliver a baby
otherwise we would be squating down in the fields, pushing it out and often dying

and when you say that the hospital stay is longer, it is longer by ONE day, so give me a break

what is feminist is not having a c-section, but having a CHOICE to do with YOUR body as you please

Anonymous said...

to whoever mentioned the side effects of drugs: c-section is done with an epidural!! so, for a woman who delivers vaginally but uses the epidural the same side effects apply
are we also against epidurals now??

btw, YES, we DO need a doctor to deliver a baby
otherwise we would be squating down in the fields, pushing it out and often dying

and when you say that the hospital stay is longer, it is longer by ONE day, so give me a break

what is feminist is not having a c-section, but having a CHOICE to do with YOUR body as you please

kelly @kellynaturally said...

Just a note regarding doulas. I had a doula with my second c-section. Obviously, not a "natural" childbirth.

Doulas provide women with labor, childbirth, and post-partum support. I'd think, as a feminist, you'd understand the importance of women to other women, particularly during the very women-centric act of giving birth. Especially in this era where women have far more roles (other than just childcare & housecare), and far less support (women no longer live in large groups and most people do not have extended family living with them to help share the care of children or post partum care or breastfeeding assistance).

A doula provides an experienced ear and physical support during labor. Far different than a husband who has never experienced labor personally. A woman who has been through it, who has witnessed countless births, can provide much-needed support in the midst of or the very end of a long very painful labor. Someone who has BTDT saying, "you can do this, I've seen this before, and you're almost there" can have a profound effect.

Additionally, a doula can do domestic things like straightening up your house or cooking meals while you are trying to rest post-partum (particularly after a major abdominal surgery when stair climbing is contra-indicated for two weeks) or help you with feeding, changing baby, or positioning baby correctly to minimize post-surgical pain, etc.

To dismiss doulas as simply "money hungry" pushers is highly ignorant of the role doulas provide.

Brooke said...

I'd love to chime in here as well. I had 2 c-sections, and they both went very smoothly, and I had no major complications. I would have much rather had vaginal births, but both sections were necessary.

Surgery ALWAYS has risks. Babies are meant to be born naturally, the comment about respiratory problems really got to me. The process of vaginal birth actually helps rid the baby of excess fluid, helping them breath better.

It was painful, and there ARE weight restrictions. I was told that the baby was pretty much the only thing I could lift, carrying the baby in the carseat was not an option. The pain was not unbearable, but it was more pain than I'd ever experienced. I'd have to rest frequently while walking to ease the burning pain of my incision. It was not sunshine and rainbows by any means. I've never met anyone who gave birth vaginally that went through that.

A c-section is NOT an easy way to have a baby. It's painful, and there is a longer recovery period. The standard time of recovery after a vaginal birth is 6 weeks, after a c-section it's 8 weeks.

I know many women who have birthed naturally who walked from the delivery room to their post-partum rooms carrying the baby just moments after their births. It took me hours before I could even feel my legs. The second section was even worse, as there was scar tissue from the 1st section to deal with. I also had a toddler to take care of when I returned home. A toddler I couldn't lift, who didn't understand. A toddler who hadn't had me at home with her for 5 days because I had to stay in the hospital. It's not just the physical aspects of a section that make it harder.

I understand what you're trying to say here, about choice and the power to make a personal decision about your own body, but please don't try to say that a c-section is easier, safer, or better than a vaginal birth. Believe me, I understand their worth, but I really don't think you can take one example to make such a claim. Your sister got lucky.

David Gendron said...

Simply a question of freedom of choice to do what you want with your body.

kelly @kellynaturally said...

>> "to whoever mentioned the side effects of drugs: c-section is done with an epidural!! so, for a woman who delivers vaginally but uses the epidural the same side effects apply
are we also against epidurals now??"

I was speaking of NARCOTIC pain medication, and clearly stated such. Did you read my post, or just quickly jump to conclusions? I am not against epidurals OR pain medication.

EVERY women has a right to choose pain medication in labor & childbirth!

I am speaking however, of the NECSSITY for very strong medications post-surgery required - intraveneously for the first 24 hrs, and then orally thereafter for a week, two, three, depending upon the woman. These drugs are not lacking in side effects - both to mother & baby. And as far as I'm concerned, they are NECESSARY to mitigate the pain of MAJOR SURGERY as I don't know anyone who would undergo abdominal surgery & recovery from said surgery without pain medication. Yet, the drugs do pose real concerns for mom & baby and shouldn't be ignored when planning a section.

Anonymous said...

"The pain was not unbearable, but it was more pain than I'd ever experienced."

Everyone I've me who had had a vaginal birth, however, says the pain was unbearable. So, I would take lots of bearable pain over "the worst pain that exists" any day.

"I am speaking however, of the NECSSITY for very strong medications post-surgery required - intraveneously for the first 24 hrs, and then orally thereafter for a week, two, three, depending upon the woman. "

I don't know what you are talking about - I apologize. I took pain medication for the 3 days I was in the hospital. When I was released, I was told to take Tylenol if I was in too much pain, but I did not take any when I got home. And trust me - my pain threshold is crap. I cry when I get waxing done. :)

"It was not sunshine and rainbows by any means. I've never met anyone who gave birth vaginally that went through that."

I have! I've met women who birthed vaginally and told me stories that nearly made me faint.

"Babies are meant to be born naturally"

Teeth are meant to rot, but do you go to the dentist to care for them? Hearts are meant to stop, but would you go to a heart surgeon if, God forbid, you had a problem? Babies are human, so they are meant to get fever, but would you give yours medication if s/was were burning up? ... Birthing naturally means squatting and pushing a baby out all on your own. But I guess the death rate of both mothers and babies did drop significantly once we started taking advantage of technological and medical advancements, right?

Sarah said...

As a doula, nursing student, and feminist, I have found the comments on this blog very thought-provoking. To me, it seems that choice is inherently the core issue of feminism, as Clarissa emphatically states. Yet, it is crucial when speaking of highly personal matters, such as childbirth, to refrain from extrapolating stories to facts. Yes, Clarissa's sister had a positive experience with her c-section. Many women do not. Major abdominal surgery is not something people should take lightly, however, and the risks are very real. There is no guarantee of the quality of the bonding or benefits of a vaginal birth, but it certainly gives families the best odds at initiating a physiologically sound start. The body has myriad ways to make the birthing process work effectively. In our modern, fast paced, non-traditional culture, we largely lose out on the wisdom that resides in our bones, our hearts, our muscles and our minds that provides the power necessary to make it through the transformational process of childbirth.

I have been present for a variety of births represented by a variety of women. My strongest feeling is that women should be supported in the way that they HOPE to experience the awesome act of birthing a child. One can never know what will happen because the complex relationship between maternal comfort and hospital procedures can change from moment to moment. Still, let's not get caught up in recommending a serious, risky, and unnecessary procedure, unless of course, it IS deemed necessary. Moving into a society in which a non medical-related physiological experience, like childbirth, is becoming more and more medicalized, it is key to honor the mothers who do the work, not the doctors who facilitate a healthy mother and baby. Only the most egotistical of doctors or midwives would take credit for a positive outcome to a normal birth, and they would be floating in a sea of narcissism.

Despite our busy world and lives where single mothers abound, we must ask for help when needed and consider the ramifications of the time requirements of being a parent. If one cannot justify the hours necessary to bring a child into the world gently, lovingly, and logically, I do think that person should reevaluate their reasons for wanting a child. It takes time, first and foremost, and without being able to freely offer oneself to the beginning moments of a child's life, that person has begun an uphill battle that will only get more difficult.

I encourage women and partners to gather as much information as possible before deciding what kind of birth and parenting they truly desire and find most natural for them. It is NOT enough to take a few stories and make a decision. Everyone is unique and will face their own hardships and blessings during pregnancy, birth and as a parent. Learn as much as possible, be keen to notice what fears, doubts, and issues you have with yourself and the idea of childbirth/parenting and have faith in your body and mind. With attention, support, and honesty, the hours of childbirth and welcoming a new life into the world can be truly miraculous.

Des said...

I am very glad that your sister had a good experience with her c-section. If you believe in a woman's right to chose to have a c-section, I would hope that you would also support a woman's right to chose a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-Section). VBACs are banned at many hospitals in the U.S. and women who do not need c-sections are being forced into them. If only our feminist sisters would see the larger and work to make things better for all women, the climate of birth might change.
Your sister was quite lucky not to experience any pain. I wish I had been as lucky. My first c-section was a Hellish nightmare that I barely survived. My second c-section was quite nice compared to the first, but there was tremendous pain during recovery. I could lift my baby (although I was instructed not to lift anything heavier than my baby, but I could not reach down and pull up my own panties after sitting on the toilet. Recovery was quite long after both surgeries. I hope you never have to experience anything even close to the pain I endured.

Clarissa said...

I'm completely in support of women's right to choose VBAC. Maybe I should write a post about it. Thanks for the idea!

Green Pearl of Wisdom said...

Clarissa,
I am the stay-at-home, homeschooling, wife that you put down in a lot of your posts but I have to thank you for this one.

So, I get a lot of crap when other mom's like me find out all three of my children's births were c-sections. The first was an emergency and the other two were sceduled.
I bonded with my babies just fine. I find this argument very ridiculous. My husband didn't have a baby squeeze out of his genitals but they also seem to have bonded with him.
I was walking hours after the operation while holding the baby. I didn't even need the prescribed pain meds after two days.
VBAC is more dangerous than a second, third or sixth c-section.
I'm sorry, it's been years since I looked up the numbers (bc I considered it after my first) but the sucess rate of VBAC (after an emergency C)is so ridiculously small most doctors do try to talk you out of it to avoid lawsuits.
I honestly think (my opinion, no research) doctors wouldn't push c-sections so much if people weren't so sue-happy. There is more chance of complications during vaginal births than c-sections.

I'm sick of being considered not a real woman or mother.
I am a real woman. I think my ovaries prove that. My children are also real. So I think that makes me a real mother.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the other comments. I do have to say, though that whether you have a c-section or whether you have a "natural birth" or spinal anesthesia, there is SOMEONE who will gladly tell you a horror story. I don't know why people delight in doing this to pregnant women.

However one plans to have a baby, or however it actually happens, most people will have an OK experience and the first few weeks with the baby will make it all seem kind of rose colored anyway. A few people will have horrible experiences and feel a need to share them with every pregnant woman they see.

Alix

Clarissa said...

"whether you have a c-section or whether you have a "natural birth" or spinal anesthesia, there is SOMEONE who will gladly tell you a horror story."

-So true! When my sister was pregnant, complete strangers approached her practically everywhere to share every gory detail of their own or somebody else's birthing experience. Why, I ask, why do that?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and for Anonymous up there, who says that every vaginal birthing experience she ever heard of was awful: here's my vaginal birth experience:

No pain medication. Took about 6 hours once the contractions were a minute apart. There was pain, yes, but more like "running a marathon" pain (endorphins are wonderful) than "someone cut off your leg" pain. Pushing the baby out was a tremendous feeling. Didn't have an episiotomy, but did tear; didn't feel the stitches while I was holding the baby, and it didn't hurt to sit down, either. I was up and walking 20 minutes after birth and felt great.

I realize this is not everyone's experience, but it was mine, and it was amazing. People overshare horrible experiences. Now you've heard a great one.

Alix

Clarissa said...

That's really good to hear, Alix. Thanks for sharing!