A c-section can be safer than a vaginal birth! Here’s why

C-sections are increasing at a rapid pace and is almost becoming the new normal. Well, while most women are opting for an elective c-section these days, it is still unclear if they are doing enough research before taking the plunge. So, here are some c-section facts even your doctor will not tell you!

Curated from: self.com

Fun fact: C-sections are the most commonly performed major operating room procedure in the U.S. In this country alone, 32.2 percent of all deliveries are done by C-section. That’s 1.2 million each year. And the rate has been steadily climbing.

One big reason for this increasing rate is that the weight of the country is going up, Jacques Moritz, M.D., an ob/gyn at Weill Cornell Medicine, tells SELF, causing more complicated pregnancies. All of the women waiting until they’re older to have kids may also have riskier pregnancies, and infertility treatments increase the chances of having a multiple birth, which makes a C-section more necessary.

The World Health Organization warns, though, that many C-sections are performed when they’re not medically necessary, which can be risky for both mom and baby because it’s a serious surgery. This could be because some doctors will rush to a C-section at the first sign of complication, and occasionally, because some women are asking for them so they can choose their delivery date or avoid natural childbirth to keep their vaginas in tact.

No matter the reason, for many women, C-sections are the best way to safely deliver their babies. If you’re planning to have a C-section, or are considering it as an option, here’s what you need to know.

1. In some situations, a C-section is safer than a vaginal birth.

One common reason women are scheduled for C-sections is fetal malpresentation, when the baby is positioned in the womb any direction other than head down toward the birth canal—such as “breech,” when the baby is butt-down in a seated position. Twins (or more) are typically delivered with a planned C-section. Though, if the fetal positioning is right, some women may try giving birth vaginally first, Moritz says. Some may have success with the first one vaginally, and then need to have a C-section with the second if he or she “misbehaves,” he adds. In a situation called “placenta previa” the placenta is essentially blocking the baby’s exit route, making a C-section necessary. “It’s impossible to have a baby that way, and both the mother and baby could hemorrhage.” Another reason your ob/gyn may want to schedule a C-section is if the baby is suspected to be heavier than normal—certain maternal medical conditions, like diabetes, can make this more likely.

2. Even though they’re common, C-sections are major surgeries that come with risks.

“A C-section is a major abdominal operation, no doubts about it,” Moritz says. “Just because we’re able to do it with such speed and safety does not mean that it’s the equivalent of getting your nails done.” Risks include blood loss, infection, and injury to surrounding organs. There’s also a higher risk of pulmonary embolism, a blood clot that travels to the lungs, in a C-section than there is following a vaginal birth.

For the baby, “there is a small risk of sustaining a laceration or cut at time of delivery and a slight increased risk for needing respiratory support after delivery,” Noel Strong, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF.

3. Before the procedure, you’ll be numbed with local anesthesia—which means you’ll be awake through the whole thing.

Save for emergency cases, there’s no need to go under completely for a C-section. “Regional anesthesia such as epidural or spinal block, which numbs the body from the waist down, is the preferred method of anesthesia for C-section,” Strong explains. For these methods, anesthesia is injected into the space surrounding your spinal cord, numbing you from that point down. You’re awake the whole time though, and will feel some pressure in your abdomen during the procedure, but not pain.

“The most common complication of this type of anesthesia is a post dural puncture headache,” Strong notes. “This headache tends to be self-limited and resolves in several days even without treatment.”

4. One downside to C-sections is that babies aren’t colonized with the mother’s bacteria, which may or may not affect their health.

A mother’s intestinal and vaginal flora play a key role in colonizing the baby with its first intestinal microbes, aka gut flora. Studies have shown that missing out on that when being born via C-section can throw off the whole gut microbiome—possibly for life. More reseach needs to be done to determine exactly how long the effects last, and what they even mean for the baby’s long-term health. But tons of research lately linking gut health to a slew of health conditions, including obesity and allergies, suggests that it could have an impact.

A recent small study looked at the effects of swabbing the baby inside the mouth and on its body with a piece of gauze that was put in the mother’s vagina first, to colonize the baby with good bacteria, Moritz explains. The results seem promising, showing that the microbiome can be at least partially restored for the short term, but Moritz says he doesn’t know anyone in this country that’s doing this in the delivery room. “Are people trying this on their own? I would not doubt it. But there’s not enough evidence,” he says, that it’s an equal substitute for a vaginal birth.

5. And recovery time is much longer with a C-section than with a vaginal delivery.

“Typically women stay in the hospital three to four days after C-section delivery as compared to one to two days after a vaginal delivery,” Strong says. “The rest of the recovery mimics this elongated pattern as well.” After a vaginal delivery, if it’s successful and there are no complications, most women feel back to their old selves within one to two weeks. With a C-section, it often takes one to two months to get to the same point, he says. Recovery can be more grueling if you go through a long labor process before deciding to do a C-section. versus going in for a scheduled Caesarian.

6. The pain is more intense, too.

Some people want a C-section to avoid the pain of childbirth. But when you undergo surgery, the pain actually lasts longer. “It’s centered in the abdomen, so laughing, coughing, sneezing, getting in and out of bed, it all hurts,” Moritz says. You’ll be sent home with pain meds, and that’s because you’ll definitely need them. Vaginal childbirth comes with its own pain when the baby’s coming out, but afterward, it’s more of a soreness “that heals very very quickly,” Moritz says. “If you speak to anybody who’s had the two, she will say that vaginal is a much easier recovery.”

7. But parts of the recovery process are similar to vaginal childbirth.

“In general, ob/gyn doctors advise no heavy lifting or driving for the first two weeks [after a C-section], no exercise other than light walking for about four weeks, and no sex for six weeks,” Strong says. (Recommendations for vaginal birth are a little less stringent, but very similar). After about a week, the incision will be tight and you don’t need to worry about it splitting open, Moritz says.

Keep in mind that even though the abdominal muscles aren’t cut in surgery, they do naturally split a little when you’re carrying a child (no matter what birthing route you take). Moritz cautions that once you start working out again, listen to your body and stop if you feel any pain—don’t push through it. “The body has a good way of talking to you and if you push through, your recovery is going to go backwards.” Walk before you run. Figuratively, but also literally, because you’ll probably have some bladder leakage when you do.

8. Yes, you will end up with a scar.

The incision is usually made two finger-widths above the pubic bone. “This typically falls within the hair line and is easily covered by swimwear or undergarments,” Strong says. It runs upward toward your bellybutton and is typically about 10 centimeters long. “Sometimes a larger incision is necessary in cases where delivery may be difficult, such as in the case of twins or excessively large babies,” he explains. New techniques in suturing make it so that your doctor can sew you back up with as minimal scarring as possible. “We try to close the way a plastic surgeon would and try to get a scar that looks as good as possible,” Moritz says.

9. Having a C-section with one child doesn’t mean you have to have one with every subsequent child.

“There used to be a saying: ‘Once a C-section, always a C-section,'” Moritz says. “But that is very old school.” Now, doctors and the CDC typically encourage what is called VBAC, vaginal birth after caesarian, depending on what the circumstances were in the first pregnancy. If you tried the first time around and found out after hours of labor that giving birth vaginally was just not in the cards for you, that’s something to discuss with your ob/gyn. He or she should ultimately respect your wishes.

10. Your health risks do go up with multiple C-sections.

“The reason is that scar tissue forms after surgery usually,” Moritz explains. This can lead to a condition called placenta accreta, where the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall where the scar tissue was from the previous C-section. “It can be potentially life-threatening,” Moritz says. At time of delivery, it can cause tremendous blood loss, and an increased chance you’ll need a hysterectomy, he adds. “It’s pretty much exclusively associated with repeat C-sections,” he adds. Bladder and bowel injuries, and heavy bleeding during childbirth, also become more likely with each subsequent C-section.

Feature image source: Pinterest.com

loader