By: Mandy Schutt
I love cesareans! I mean it, I really love them. I appreciate that they can be done today when a hundred years ago, mothers and babies were dying for reasons that can now be solved by a common procedure. Along with cesareans, I love triple bypass surgery (this procedure saved the life of my grandfather), kideny transplants (this procedure saved the lives of two of my young students when I was an elementary school teacher) and I even love oral surgery (I've assisted with several of these when doing aide work abroad and seen how much relief they can bring). So, yes I will proudly state that I am a fan of the cesarean.
Here's what I'm not a fan of: The fact that today in America one out of every three births is a surgical procedure. The World Health Organization recommends that the cesarean rate in industrialized countries should be between 10 and 15%. The newest studies find that we are just about doubling that.
What I'm even less of a fan of is how we as a society have bitten into this as being acceptable. Imagine finding out that the rate of kidney removal was double what it should be: wouldn't we ask questions about why this is happening, who's making money from it, and how the problem can be fixed? If double the amount of kidney surgeries were being performed that cut open and manipulate a persons' insides for no reason, we'd be outraged! We'd hopefully be suspicious going in for a routine physical and hearing from our doctor that kidney surgery was necessary. Wouldn't we start doing research? Get a second opinion?
Of course, kidney transplants are extremely necessary in some cases, much like cesareans, but wouldn't we want to be 100% certain of this necessity before we went under the knife?
I could go on and on about the surgical dangers involved in cesareans, but those facts are all relatively easy to find simply by using the google box at the top of your computer screen. In reality, a cesarean IS a major surgery, with risks involved but in all honesty, most women who have them come out alive and eventually physically healhty. In my opinion, it's time for birth activists to lay this approach aside and address cesarean risks from an entirely differrent angle. Let's examine some new criteria that address the other-perhaps lesser explored- down sides of cesarean delivery:
LOST MOTHER-INFANT BONDING:When a woman labors and gives birth naturally her body creates the highest amount of Oxytocin (aka "the love hormone") that it ever has. Remember those butterflies you got in your stomach when your first boyfriend helpd your hand? Or the feeling you got when looking at your soul mate accross a crowded room? That's Oxytocin at work! When a mother is not allowed to hold her baby after a cesarean and when her body has been flooded with drugs for surgery, that precious moment of mother-child bonding accompanied by the Oxytocin high, is lost forever. Most mothers after the surgery are able to see their newborns for mere seconds before they are swept away to be bundled up while the mother is stitched back up. Often it is more than an hour's time before mother and newborn are reunited.
DIFFICULTY BREASTFEEDING: When a mother exits surgery, she has been heavily drugged and has several tubes attached to her on various parts of her body. This makes mom groggy, often sleepy (I've seen mothers so sleepy, they can hardly keep their eyes open to take in the beauty of thier new baby), and unable to confidently feel or control their arms enough to hold thier child while attempting to breastfeed. Additionally, the hormones that create the milk ejection reflex, have been interfered with through medication necessary for surgery.
NO SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT: After a cesarean section, a mother is still in surgery. She is not able to hold her infant. Instead of receiving that wonderful skin to skin contact, we now know is so important, the child is instead taken out of the mother's sight (most often, out of the room) and is in the hands of unfamiliar nurses.
The above cesarean risks are rarely discussed when women are contemplating the pros and cons of a cesarean. While a mother may be able to come to grips with the idea of a longer recovery, hightened chance of infection, and even surgery for herself, when she is made aware of the additional psychological and physiological risks that can affect her newborn, she may not be as obliged to go under the knife. Certailny, there are situations when a cesarean is an appropriate, life-saving measure, but true emergency c-sections are few and far between.
I encourage every woman of child-bearing age to sincerely educate themselves on the risks and appropriateness of cesarean sections BEFORE you are in labor and on the spot to make an uneducated decision that will not only affect your baby, but your future birthing options as VBACs are becoming more difficult to come by. A great place to start this research is at ICAN's site dedicated to cesarean awareness.