A cesarean section or what is often called a "c-section" is a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby/babies through an incision in the abdomen and uterus. This procedure can be planned or unplanned and for different reasons such as medical complications, trauma or preference. It is common for the pregnant person to be awake during the procedure but under regional anesthesia via a spinal block to numb the lower half of the body during the procedure. With a spinal block you should not feel sharp pain but you may be able to feel tugging, pushing, and pressure as the medical provider works to deliver the baby. On occasion general anesthesia would be required for emergencies so the pregnant person will not be awake during the birth and will not be able to feel anything.
Because this is a surgical procedure it is not uncommon for the pregnant person to remain in the hospital a few days longer than with a vaginal delivery and require additional pain management care once released from the hospital. Your medical provider could suggest a cesarean section if they consider it necessary based on various reasons such as having multiples, the baby is in an odd position, the baby is in distress, the pregnant person is in distress, or often times because labor isnt progressing (quick enough). In the United States during 2020 it was determined that approximately 32% of all live births were by cesarean section. That means for every 100 births there were approximately 22 first time c-sections and that number has continued to climb as it has over the last decade. So what is causing more care pregnancies to end in surgical intervention?
Studies have shown that, outside of pre-existing medical conditions, in many cases a c-section actually wasnt necessary but it was completed because the provider had inadequate fetal screening equipment to ensure safety of the baby while in the uterus. Once the available monitoring equipment indicates significant distress during labor the provider errs on the side of caution and encourages the pregnant person to consent to a surgical intervention to avoid possible injuries.
The thought of our unborn children in distress often leads us to act in a way that will protect them and often leads us to agree with these procedures. In my personal experience, I was admitted to the hospital for induction of my second child, after 14hrs of labor and while pushing I was told to stop pushing because my provider noticed that my baby was in distress and required emergency intervention. Although not pushing is one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced I quickly agreed and was wheeled down the hall to surgery. In this case it was a good call because my son was under weight and required a stay in the NICU for the first several hours of his life but when it came time to deliver my third child I was told I HAD to have her my c-section, there was no VBAC choice.
The experience of pregnancy can feel new, exciting, overwhelming, fulfilling, scary, isolating, euphoric...there are a rang of emotions from pregnancy to pregnancy and month to month within the confines of one pregnancy. Adding the experience of a cesarean section can bring additional feelings to the mix and particularly if it wasnt desired so in my practice I encourage my pregnant clients to participate in activities throughout pregnancy that can help them feel 1) informed 2) prepared 3) empowered. This can involve continuing or beginning a physical activity routine, tapping into your emotions, and cultivating a strong spiritual practice to prepare for this transition. I also suggest reading pregnancy articles or books, learning more about where and how you would like to deliver, asking questions, nourishing your body, and finding support for when those emotions become too big to handle on your own. Not only can these simple practices help you prevent an unplanned c-section but it can actually enhance your pregnancy experience and help you create lasting memories.
As a Doula my goal is to provide compassionate emotional, physical, and spiritual support for birthing folks as they journey through their personal pregnancy experience but I also encourage folks to seek community support which might be a partner, friend, or family. If you are looking for support feel free to reach out! A Discover-Me consultation is always free and allows us to talk about how I can support you.
Reproductive wellness is not only about fertility, pregnancy, and birth. Holistic reproductive wellness also empowers us to take control of our minds and bodies in a way that promotes overall wellness so we can choose if, when, and how to safely support a pregnancy. Are you ready to take this journey with me? Head over our Facebook group to join the discussions or message me for more information.