Birth Options Series – Elective Cesarean Section

Welcome and thank you for listening!

In this episode we interviewed Amy, who chose an Elective C-Section for the birth of her firstborn. Amy lives in Jeffreys Bay and is married to Silvino. She is a professional wedding photographer and loves people, pizza and romantic movies. Amy had a planned C-section that went well, but not long afterwards her little boy ended up having a lung problem. Her little boy was in hospital for a whole month.

C-Section Fact Sheet 

Many women believe that a Caesarean Section, or C-section, is the best birth option for them. Common reasons for this include that:

  •       The pain of labour and natural birth is avoided
  •       Baby is thought to be exposed to fewer risks
  •       Mom’s sense of privacy and dignity aren’t be violated
  •       It’s believed that natural birth will affect vaginal tone, pelvic health, and lovemaking after birth
  •       It offers moms a degree of control because they’re able to choose what day they want to give birth on

These concerns are all valid – although not entirely true – and it’s perfectly understandable that moms would feel this way. Before you make your decision on what type of birth is best, there are a few things which you should know about both C-sections and natural birth.

Pros and cons

Thanks to all the great advances in medical technology, a C-section is mostly a safe and successful procedure. However, it has some downsides which many people don’t know about:

  •       A C-section is major surgery – this means that you’ll have to deal with all of the recovery aspects of surgery as well as adjusting to being a mommy!
  •       An elective or pre-planned C-section is often done ahead of Baby’s due date, meaning that Baby will, essentially, be premature
  •       A C-section can have lasting effects on Baby, including making him more restless and colicky after birth and making breastfeeding slightly more challenging
  •       Recovery is slower after a C-section than after natural birth

On the other hand, natural birth is often very traumatic – and sometimes even humiliating. It doesn’t have to be that way though; it all depends on how the birth is handled. If you choose birth practitioners who support natural birth it’s possible for your birth to be empowering, special, discreet, and far easier.

Unfortunately, South Africa has an exceptionally high C-section rate, which isn’t always in the best interest for either Mom or Baby. The most common reasons given for C-sections are:

  •       Baby is too big
  •       Baby hasn’t descended into the pelvis properly near the end of pregnancy
  •       The amniotic fluid levels are low
  •       The placenta is calcifying
  •       Baby’s head circumference is too big or Mom’s pelvis is too small
  •       It’s simply more convenient for the doctor or mom

Don’t let yourself be bullied into getting a C-section if you don’t want one though, as most of these reasons given are blown out of proportion. For example:

  •       Small people generally have smaller babies; only if Mom’s shoe size is less than number four or Dad is considerably bigger than Mom is there a concern that Baby might be ‘too big’
  •       Disproportion between Baby’s head and Mom’s pelvis can only be accurately diagnosed once active labour has started – birth position can solve this too, as an upright birth position can free up to 30% more room in the pelvic outlet

Scheduling considerations

An emergency C-section will be done whenever necessary, although an elective C-section is usually performed 10–14 days before your due date. A ‘normal’ pregnancy lasts 37–40 weeks and it’s usually safe for Baby to be born 14 days before this. However, it’s never a good idea to force Baby to come early if it isn’t medically necessary and it’s best to let Baby be born when nature intended, once all of her organs and systems are mature. You can choose to ask your doctor to let you go at least until your due date. Most first pregnancies go slightly longer and even if you do go into labour, the progress is usually slow enough to start with that you’ll still be able to get your C-section. Although C-sections are generally very safe, Baby may suffer some negative effects – especially if the C-section is done too early. These include:

  •       Respiratory problems which may mean Baby has to spend some time in the neonatal unit
  •       Baby needing her airways to be suctioned – this is traumatic and can make Baby restless and more prone to colic later
  •       Extra challenges when it comes to getting breastfeeding started – especially if Baby’s sucking reflex isn’t fully developed because of her prematurity
  •       Baby being more likely to develop tactile defensiveness – extreme sensitivity to light and loud noises, labels in clothing, certain fabrics, and aversion to touch, lumps in food, and walking barefoot