Cesarean Birth Pros and Cons

Cesarean deliveries are on the rise. It’s debated – sometimes hotly – as to whether or not this is a good thing. Leaving that debate to the experts, let’s take a look at some of the facts about Cesarean delivery (C-sections).

It’s Major Surgery

What many people don’t realize is that a C-section is major abdominal surgery. If you had gallbladder surgery, for example, or had your appendix out, your doctor would caution you to stay in bed for some time and limit movement. Your friends and family would probably understand. But with C-sections, many moms are back on their feet far too soon, because she and her family may not really recognize the significance of the surgery. If complications arise, recovery time is increased.

So prepare to have in-home help for several weeks – meals, housework, and errand-running will need to be done by someone else.

What Happens During a C-section?

Whether you go in for a scheduled C-section or have one performed after an unsuccessful labor, the procedure is basically the same. If you are put under general anesthesia, the hospital staff will put an anesthetic into your IV. Usually, C-sections are done under local anesthetic, or epidural. A curtain is draped between your face and your tummy so you don’t see the operation. This is probably because C-sections are very bloody (the uterus is a blood-rich organ), and many patients might find that alarming.

The incision is usually made horizontally (in some cases, such as when the placenta has dipped into the cervix, the incision is made vertically), and is quite low, just above your pubic bone. The whole thing takes about an hour; the stitching up of various tissue layers tends to take the longest.

If you want to hold your baby right after the surgery, make sure this is made clear to hospital staff beforehand. Some hospitals make it a policy for moms to hold their C-section babies right off; others do not.

Can I Avoid a C-section?

Sometimes, C-sections are medically necessary. If you want to avoid an unnecessary C-section, here are some tips.

* Go to the hospital late in your labor. This gives the hospital less time to intervene and possibly complicate things, leading to a C-section.

* Get various opinions during your pregnancy. Visit a midwife and other OBs, if possible, and find out if they think you are high-risk for a C-section or not.

* Have a birth plan written down and given to your partner or supporting person with you. This person can intercede with hospital staff while you are busy concentrating on your labor. If your birth plan says no interventions, make sure the hospital staff know this.

* Consider hiring a doula who is experienced in various labor scenarios.

Can I Schedule an Elective C-section?

Depending on your care provider, an elective C-section (a C-section which is simply scheduled by choice, not for medical reasons) may be possible. If you do choose this route, make sure you do your research regarding the pros and cons. It is major surgery, as noted above, and there’s a real risk of premature delivery.