April is Cesarean Awareness Month!
These days it seems like there is a dedicated awareness “day” or “month” for almost every topic under the sun, and sometimes it’s difficult to keep up with it all.
Cesarean Awareness month is not just “one of those things” that we should brush off or not recognize.
The goal of this movement is, obviously, to raise awareness and educate people about cesareans—something that, in general, people know surprisingly low amounts of information about.
After delivering both my sons via c-section (despite two earnest attempts at vaginal deliveries) I have found that there seems to be a general lack of information surrounding an extremely important topic–prenatal care + birth. And more specifically, cesarean births.
With the US cesarean rate at a high 32%, expectant mothers should educate themselves on the process, risks, and recovery of a c-section.
Just because someone is planning a natural birth (like we did!) doesn’t mean she should skip over this topic in childbirth class. Had I known a little more about what to expect in the event of a c-section, I believe that would have been helpful in my personal recovery process.
At the end of the day, anyone could end up requiring a surgical birth, and mamas need to be prepared and equipped with the facts to help them make informed care decisions should it be relevant. (Especially if you are planning an induction, or have any other factors that could predispose you to a higher chance of requiring a c-section.)
Helpful Facts to Consider:
-Today, about 1 in 3 babies are delivered via c-section.
-The average cost of a c-section delivery is $12,728 compared to the average $7,278 vaginal delivery.
-Hospital recovery is 3-5 days for a c-section, compared to 1-2 days for the average vaginal delivery.
-At home recovery is 4-6 weeks for a c-section, compared to an average 2 week “to resume normal activities” after vaginal birth.
-A c-section is a major surgery that poses more risks than a vaginal delivery, including infection, severe bleeding and blood clots. Because of these risks, many doctors recommend vaginal births unless a c-section is medically necessary.
-Some reasons for a medically necessary cesarean include: placenta previa, placental abruption, uterine rupture, fetal breech position, cord prolapse, fetal distress, cephalopelvic disproportion, STD in mother, diabetes, preeclampsia, extremely high blood pressure, maternal heart condition, birth defects, and some multiple births.
-According to the World Health Organization, some of the above mentioned cases, a medically necessary cesarean can be life-saving for mother and/or baby.
-C-section mothers are advised not to lift anything heavier than their baby during the at-home recovery period.
-Mothers’ postpartum feelings on her cesarean can range widely. Some studies have shown that women who have unexpected surgical birth are more likely to experience grief, loss, and personal failure or are at an elevated risk for postpartum depression.
My personal goals in recognizing Cesarean Awareness Month are twofold:
1. To provide facts and information to help expectant mothers make informed decisions about their prenatal care and their birth. After all, is this not one of the most important decisions of a woman’s life?
In some situations, c-sections are medically necessary and are an amazing resource to preserve the lives of mother/baby. Praise the Lord for this! Knowing the facts will help a mother work with her care provider to decide if surgery is the right route for her.
In other situations, we have commonly seen that c-sections have been pushed on mothers in unnecessary circumstances, which can lead to difficult recoveries, increased risk for birth trauma, and a higher risk for postpartum depression. The latter is unfortunate, and can hopefully be amended in future by the provision of education and awareness on this issue.
2. To provide support for postpartum mothers who have for whatever reason undergone a c-section, as I understand first hand that it can be extremely difficult–and to encourage others to provide support as well.
So what can YOU do? What’s the “call to action” here?
Partners, families and support persons: educate yourselves, too! With the routine nature of c-sections, many times people struggle to understand and sympathize with the fact that these are MAJOR abdominal surgeries.
YES, c-sections are indeed the amazing birth of a child, just like a vaginal delivery. I wouldn’t dream of diminishing that fact. But they are also a major surgeries that carry emotional and undeniably intense physical recovery.
Statements like “C-sections are the ‘easy way out’” are simply untrue (and can be hurtful.) Avoiding participating in such rhetoric and educating others who may not understand is paramount.
If you are close to a mama who has given birth via c-section, do some simple research on what she may be going through, and remember to offer genuine support.
If you have only experienced vaginal births, or you were fortunate enough to experience a trauma-free/smooth c-section, or you just don’t understand the “big deal,” please remember not to downplay, invalidate, or disrespect the birth and postpartum experiences of other mothers. Each woman’s birth experience and the way she processes it is unique- let’s all support each other here.
Instead of saying to a new mother: So, what went wrong, If only you had, or I would have done; say: How are you feeling?, Would you rather me do dishes or fold some laundry?, I brought you coffee!, or You did amazing!
To borrow a quote from Monet Nicole Birthing Stories: “ Whenever someone tells me that they’ve had a cesarean birth, I know two things: they’re incredibly brave and incredibly strong.”
Such a powerful and true statement. No birth is easy. No matter what, labor and delivery are hard. And beautiful. It is important to recognize that fact, no matter how a woman gives birth.
So even though April is almost over, I encourage you to take this opportunity to learn and to share.