Currently, 32 percent of babies in the United States were born by cesarean section—a rise in rates for the 12th straight year. Surprisingly, many medical experts believe as many as half of these surgeries are medically unnecessary.
At this stage you likely already know that cesarean section is a major abdominal surgery in which a baby is born through an incision in the mother’s abdomen and can be crucial in circumstances such as umbilical cord prolapse or placenta previa. However, when medically unnecessary, both mother and baby experience a higher risk for complications associated with this procedure than with a vaginal birth. In fact, babies born by cesarean have a higher incidence of breathing problems and fetal injury. Mothers who undergo a cesarean birth have an increased risk of infection, excessive bleeding, blood clots, increased postpartum pain and a longer recovery period. Injuries to the mother’s bladder or bowel are also more common.
Take Control of Your Birth
Sometimes it becomes evident that a woman will require a cesarean long before she ever goes into labor, while in other cases, unforeseen complications may make it medically necessary at the last minute. While not all cesareans should be prevented, you can do things to ensure you don’t have an unnecessary one.
- Avoid being induced. Studies show that inducing labor often leads to a cesarean birth. Unless medically necessary, avoid inductions.
- Eat well. A healthy, well-balanced diet can prevent complications in pregnancy, labor and birth. Also, continue to eat and drink lightly during early labor. The uterus is a muscle and needs nourishment to work properly.
- Labor at home. Laboring at home for as long as possible can help reduce the anxiety often associated with hospitals. Anxiety may slow down labor and can often lead to the use of unnecessary interventions.
- Prepare a birth plan. Submit copies of your researched birth plan to your hospital, healthcare provider and labor support persons. This way your wishes are clear before you go into labor.
- Many believe that if they have previously had a cesarean they will no longer be able to birth vaginally. While it’s true that those who have previously undergone a classical vertical uterine incision may require future cesareans, you may be a good candidate for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) if you’ve had previous cesarean births with a horizontal incision.
- Studies show that 44 percent of those who are induced end up having a cesarean while only 8 percent of those who go into labor naturally have one.