Cesarean sections are on the rise. In the United States it is estimated that around 33% of births end in a C-section. The World Health Organization estimates that on average 10% of births should end in a cesarean section. Why is it that the US is 23% higher than the suggested rate?
Don't get me wrong, Cesarean sections are life-saving medical procedures that can be invaluable in cases where the mother or the baby is in extreme distress. As someone who had an emergency c-section I can attest to the fact that there are certainly times when a c-section is both valuable and life-saving. However, given the impacts a Cesarean birth has on the mother and on the baby one would wonder why the rate is so high above WHO standards. I believe one of the reasons for this high rate is general misinformation or a lack of education around birthing options and practices that are available.
Here are five steps that you can take to help prevent an unnecessary C-section:
Ask questions: ask your care provider what their practices are around cesarean section:
Be clear about your wishes: make sure that both your care provider, your partner and those supporting you in birth know how you feel about having a c-section. If you feel that you and your care provider do not see eye-to-eye on any part of your birth plan, you are empowered to seek out another care provider who does meet you on that level.
Ensure that you have a support team that is 100% behind your decisions: make sure those supporting in you in labor are on the same page as you in terms of interventions, medications and other procedures. Encourage them to be your advocate particularly if you think that you might not be in a place to be an advocate for yourself.
Avoid interventions where possible: bodies have been giving birth for thousands upon thousands of years. They know how to do this process; it is a natural process and it is one the body understands. Medical interventions to induce labor, speed up labor and end labor more quickly only serve to increase the rate of further interventions, and a possible c-section down the line.
When the baby is ready to come labor will begin. Labor then progresses at different rates for everyone and you should be in a situation where you are allowed to labor at the rate of your body. No timers, no watchful eyes counting down the minutes. You need support to go at your own pace. Interventions in many cases are unnecessary and only end up speeding up the process toward a medical procedures that lead to further and further interventions.
Make sure that you are in a place that you feel safe and comfortable: there have been many studies done that link the fact that a person in labor needs to feel safe in order to labor productively. In general, they need to feel protected, the lights need to be low, voices need to be quiet and they need as few interruptions as possible. Bright lights, loud voices, interruptions and questions directed at the birthing person often serve to stall or slow the labor. Make sure that your care provider and birthing team is on board with your wishes around what will make you feel most comfortable for labor.
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.