Even though C-sections are incredibly common in the United States, many C-section moms find themselves answering the question "Why?" Why did you choose a C-section? Most C-sections among first-time moms are a result of necessity rather than choice, but most women who had one C-section will choose another cesarean delivery for subsequent births. I asked moms to share the real reason they chose to have a C-section, either for a first or subsequent delivery, and their answers were both empowering and enlightening.
Only one of the women I talked to had what obstetricians would refer to as a "cesarean delivery on maternal request," which is defined as "a primary prelabor cesarean delivery on maternal request in the absence of any maternal or fetal indications." These account for a scant 2.5 percent of all births in the United States. Most C-sections performed are either prompted by medical necessity (either before or after a trial of labor) or are requested (and/or advised) after already having had a C-section. Only between 22 and 6 percent of women will deliver vaginally after a C-section (the broad range reflects VBAC rates by state), and that's generally because they opted for a C-section instead.
In talking to some fellow C-section mamas, I heard a lot of excellent reasons for choosing this method of delivery. Of course, we should be well aware that any safe choice that makes a woman more comfortable is a good reason, and she doesn't have to justify herself to anyone. Still, I think there's power in sharing stories and experiences, and, as always, I was wondered I could chat with a group of women about theirs.
"When you have anxiety, you do everything you can to try to mitigate it. I was terrified of labor and delivery — the physical act of it. When I realized that talk therapy wasn't lessening that crushing weight, I decided the best thing to do was schedule a C-section. As soon as it was on the books my pregnancy became a thousand percent more enjoyable. It was like having complete control and also giving up all control. It was very empowering."
"With my first pregnancy I didn't actually 'choose.' It was just necessary after 32 hours of labor and not much progress. This time I am choosing a repeat C-section, just because I feel like my body will 'fail' me again, and I've heard recovery from a scheduled C-section is much easier than the recovery of an emergency C-section. Thankfully I am at peace with it now. I mourned my first C-section for many many years."
"My first C-section wasn't a choice. I had to have an emergency C-section after pushing for six hours because my son was stuck. I chose to have one with my second because I didn't want to put either of us through what my son and I went through the first time, both physically and mentally."
"My first was an emergency, and I planned to VBAC my second. But you can't plan anything where kids are concerned. My baby was breech from 26 weeks on. He wouldn't move, and we didn't want to move him. My first was a preemie, in the right spot, but a preemie. My second was comfy breech and we thought if he's staying in that way, so be it. Why mess with what the body does? So I planned a gentle C-section, which allowed for skin-to-skin immediately. Everyone was really great about giving me the experiences I had missed the first time around, while doing what we felt was safest for my new baby. It was a wonderful experience, and I'm so glad I didn't mess with nature."
"I'll be having [another] C-section because my first labor was bad and I still haven't recovered from it. Twenty hours of labor, pushed for five, left me with a uterine and bladder prolapse and chronic pain pelvic pain because I have chronic inflammation surrounding my pubic symphysis. Two rounds of physical therapy, six months with a chiropractor, multiple doctors ignoring me when I told them I was still in pain (one who actually asked me what I expected after I had a 10 pound baby). It took me three years to even consider having a second [baby[ and when I sat down and thought about it, it was because the thought of labor again gave me a panic attack. Everyone tells you you'll forget the pain, but if the pain never goes away you can't forget it. Also, my son was born in March 2014 and, in July 2017 I made the last payment on the medical bill I accrued from all of the treatments I had as a result of my 'normal vaginal birth' (at least on paper).
I finally found a doctor who listened to me and told me that there was ample evidence that my first labor was traumatic and that I should have no issue requesting a C-section and my fears about a second sort of just faded away."
"My first wasn't a choice. My oldest's head was stuck. I wanted to VBAC with my daughter but intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) showed up and it was more important to have healthy babies."
"[My] first [pregnancy] ended with an emergency section. The whole process was awful and recovery was a very long nightmare. Chances were very high that same thing would happen second time around — my body just wasn't capable of passing a human which, ultimately, put the baby's life in danger. [My] second [pregnancy ended with] a scheduled section. [It was] like night and day. Recovery was great, I felt like a human for my entire recovery, and was able to mother my children the moment the freezing wore off. I chose the baby's health and my own over the potential nightmare that was likely to happen again."
"My first wasn't a choice. He was an emergency C-section after a difficult pregnancy and a long labor and it turned out that he had positioned himself during labor such that a C-section was medically necessary. I had a lot of guilt because I was surrounded by militant natural birth advocates online and in real life. The second time I was on the fence about a VBAC/C-section until I went into labor three weeks early. The surgeon came in and told me that given my age, the complications in pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum and pre-eclampsia), the problems delivering the first baby, and the large size of this baby, I had about a 5 percent success rate. I pushed the first baby long enough to not feel like I missed out on anything. Also, maternal risk is greater with a C-section and risk to baby is greater with a VBAC. So I chose the C-section based on all those facts and the confidence I had in that particular surgeon and have not regretted it.
My daughter was a more than nine pound baby at 37 weeks and positioned the exact same way as her brother. After the surgery, the OB told me she would have ended in C-section regardless. Recovery was a breeze and, more importantly, no guilt. People are quick to condemn having a C-section, but I am very thankful for modern medicine because without it none of us would be here."
"My first was breech. I did everything I could think of to get her to turn — acupuncture, smudge pots, moxibustion — and when I went in to have a version done, they could see that the cord was wrapped around her neck twice! That was a Thursday and then my C-section was scheduled for the following Monday."
"To be honest, I was really happy when my baby was breech and my doctor said I should have one. My sister suffered nerve damage 'down there' when she had my nephew and we're built similarly. I didn't want to suffer the same fate. Of course when you tell people your baby is breech some people are like 'Go to a chiropractor!' or, 'Try this method to get them to turn!' Rather than deal with their judgment I would just say 'I've tried EVERYTHING! He's not budging!'"
"Fifty hours of labor with little progression and then the baby shifted a bit. By then I was ridiculously tired, hungry, and completely out of it. Time to cut the baby out! Turns out the baby was 10 lbs 12 oz. I think about all the things I could've done differently to deliver vaginally, like labor longer at home, etc, but... I have narrow hips and a 10 lbs 12 oz baby so I don't know. I now wish I could've just asked for a C-section earlier.
My second was a scheduled C-section a week before her due date and it was AWESOME. I was well-rested, had a fantastic last meal as a family of three the night before, and was coherent enough to meet my daughter. I will always remember the first time I met her. And for the record, she was 9 lbs so if she had been as late as her older sister, she would've easily been another 10+ lb baby so, again, no qualms about my decision."
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