The cesarean birth rate in our country is 32.8%. We as a country are ranked 47th in the world in maternal death rates and 34th in infant death rates. The cesarean birth rate has risen nearly 60% from the most recent low in 1996.
Of course I appreciate modern medicine when truly needed and I love that cesarean births do save some babies and mothers. But a true cesarean birth rate should be around 2-10%. There are so many cons that come along with cesarean births, it is, after all, major abdominal surgery (and the most profitable surgery in hospitals around the country).
So until the day we can bring our cesarean birth rates down back to a healthy number, there are things you can do to make your cesarean birth more peaceful and enjoyable. As a Certified Doula, I have seen my share of vaginal and cesarean births and just a few things differently can make a major impact on your birth experience.
*Ask your doctor and nurses if it would be OK to play classical music during surgery.
*If you are spiritual, pray before surgery starts. Ask that guardian angels and archangels guide the hospital staff into doing a good job and keeping you all safe. Even if you aren’t, take a deep breath and let the moment sink in. You are about to give birth. Your baby will be born soon!
*Ask to not have your arms strapped down.
*Ask doctor and nurses to explain to you what drugs will be used. For example, they may give you morphine for pain relief as the epidural is wearing off, which can make you very, very loopy. I will never forget the day my husband had a colonoscopy and he was given morphine. It was mighty hilarious, but when you just had a baby, you don’t want loopy and drugged (one because that gets into your breast milk and two so you can actually remember things!) Ask your doctors and nurses to refrain from small talk and instead be silent. This way, they can focus on the job at hand, and also so they can help bring an energy of sacredness to the surgery room.
*Ask your doctors to let you know when they make each cut – they could tell you when they’ve made first cut, as they cut through each layer of fat, muscle and then uterus. Have them talk you through the whole process, I feel a head! I have the shoulders! Here comes baby! You can even bear down and grunt as baby is being lifted out, giving your body a chance to participate.
*Ask for the blue cover to be lowered so that you can see more of your baby being born. And so partner can see more too-if it is up, partner has to switch back and forth, often leaving your side to see the baby be born, or stand up to see. If partner can stay seated, holding your hand, that will make you feel more stable, secure and relaxed.
*Ask your doctors and nurses not to announce the sex of the baby to the room. Even if you know it is a girl. YOU should be the one to announce/exclaim to the room that “It’s a GIRL!!!”
*Once baby is born, ask that baby is given straight to partner, and that he brings baby immediately to you, have partner hold baby firmly and securely and have him pull down the top of your gown (which I know will feel uncomfortable for a lot of women to be exposed like that, but it will be so comforting to be baby to have even thirty seconds to feel your warm skim and smell you that it is worth it) and lay baby on your chest while keeping a supportive hand on baby’s back. If that’s not possible, have him press baby directly up to your cheek so that baby can immediately be skin to skin with some part of your body and he can smell you and that you can smell him. Ask for this moment to be as long as possible. They can wash baby off and do routine baby hospital stuff later.
*Ask for delayed cord clamping. They can deliver placenta and still not cut cord.
*Again, ask that doctors and nurses remain silent as they work. Take this time to have a peaceful moment with your new family, bring sacredness to the moment that your family is born, and again this forces the staff to be more focused on the task at hand and will be less likely to nick your colon with surgical tools or do a sloppy job stitching you back up.
*Ask for a doula or family friend to join you in the OR, when partner follows baby out of the OR. It’s like a changing of the guards, partner goes out, other support person comes in. Some hospitals will allow two support people in the OR, but it is very rare. It is much more comforting to have a support person with you when they are stitching you up.
*Use the term cesarean birth instead of c-section when tell your birth story. You still gave birth. No matter how baby came out of your body, you gave birth. You are now a mother. Validate your experience by giving it the correct terminology.
*And a note to all other women, please do not use the words “c-section”, or “ended up with c-section” or “at least your baby is healthy.” Most moms are hoping to avoid a cesarean birth and it is very painful and traumatic experience and those words can be like a knife in an open wound.
This is a great example of a cesarean birth plan. But remember birth plans are a slippery slope and don’t actually guarantee or protect you. They are great tools for getting partners and practitioners on the same page as much as possible during pregnancy but then when birth day comes you gotta be open to the birth going down a different way.
Also, International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) is a great resource for information on cesareans.
And if you do have a cesarean birth, know that physically postpartum healing will take you longer and you need to be even more cognizant of allowing your self time to heal and making your healing process a priority. Your uterus is going to need some major healing too, check out all my posts about uterus trauma and displacement. Here are some more Mama and Baby Love postpartum healing archives that would be helpful:
And know that mentally, emotionally and spiritually is can be a long road to healing too. Having a cesarean birth can be devastating, so grieve it just like you would a death. If you are heartbroken, know that is perfectly normal. Talking to someone is one of the best things you can do to help you come out of the trauma, depression and heartbreak. Find a therapist in your area that specializes in pregnancy and post partum, or you if you like you can schedule a Skype session with me.
photo credit: Kevin Cate, June 2013.