One-third of babies born in our country are born via cesarean section (C-section) each year. The World Health Organization recommends an ideal cesarean rate of 10 to 15 percent. At this rate, cesareans are being performed only when medically necessary. It’s important to acknowledge this statistic and ensure that moms have the best possible experience.
As a cesarean mother myself, a birth doula, and local chapter leader for ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network), I want to share 4 things you may not know about cesarean birth.
- You have options during and after your cesarean birth experience. You are a birthing mother and your preferences during the birth experience matter.
- Do you want to know what’s happening the whole time? Ask the medical team to narrate the process for you.
- Do you want a quiet, more reverent atmosphere? Ask the team not to have side conversations and to respect your space to give birth peacefully.
- Do you want music in the background? Ask for it.
- Do you want your arms free, so you can wrap them around your baby after the birth? Let the team know.
- Have these conversations during your prenatal appointments (even if you don’t think you’ll have a cesarean birth) and again before the birth if there’s no rush to perform the cesarean.
- You can have skin-to-skin contact and breastfeed your baby immediately after birth. It used to be that babies born via cesarean were routinely taken to the nursery after being held up for the mothers to see. This is changing at many hospitals, but it’s important to make your wishes known. You can ask for your baby to be placed on your chest after the birth, and you can even try to breastfeed him or her in the operating room. To ensure that this happens, ask for a nurse who has experience helping mothers breastfeed immediately after cesarean birth and/or bring a doula with you.
- You have options for your next birth. If you plan to have more children after your cesarean, you likely have the option of having a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). If you are an ideal candidate for VBAC, you do not need to automatically plan for another cesarean. The risks of cesarean increase with each cesarean birth you have, so be sure to talk to your provider about your options and make a choice that you feel is best for you.
- Cesarean moms are fierce. Giving birth by cesarean is a heroic feat. Often times, we cesarean moms have had to accept a change in our ideal birth vision. Sometimes we have time to wrap our hearts and minds around this change for a while before we give birth. Other times, it happens quickly, after many hours of hard laboring. After this major procedure, we then rise to the occasion of mothering our babies, while also healing from surgery and riding the roller coaster of postpartum hormone shifts. For some of us, we are also working through our emotions about our birth experience. Throw older siblings into the mix during this time, and we’re actually superheroes!
When I was pregnant with my second child, I founded a local chapter of ICAN. I received so much support as I navigated my next birth journey.
ICAN is a non-profit whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). When I moved to the Seacoast, I started a chapter here. Our monthly meetings are a safe, compassionate space to share your story with others who can truly empathize. Here, we will listen to the stories of others and offer support and answer questions about your local options for birthing after cesarean. If you are pregnant and want to know more about cesarean birth, if you have given birth my cesarean, or if you’re birthing again after cesarean, ICAN is here as a resource for you.