C-sections are sometimes necessary. Of all the medical interventions that exist, the c-section is perhaps the most important. It's a relatively simple and safe surgery. But it is major abdominal surgery. And it's performed too often.
The World Health Organization has looked at the data and come up with a reasonable recommended cap for c-sections at 10-15%. But in America one in three babies is born via c-section. This means that around 15-20% of all births result in medically unnecessary c-sections.
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That's a hard number to deal with if you're pregnant and hoping for a vaginal birth. What are you supposed to do with that info? You don't have the time or resources to change the entire maternity care system in this country. You're due in three months! So let's do the sensible thing and table the issue of maternity care for now. Let's focus on you and what you can do.
If you're hoping for a vaginal birth, there are ways you can reduce the likelihood of unnecessary interventions, including a c-section:
1. Care-provider, care-provider, care-provider. Ask your midwife or doctor for his or her rates of c-section among low risk mothers. If it's high, your chances are high. If it's low, your chances are low.
2. Hire a doula or bring in a positive, experienced labor support person. Studies have shown good labor support significantly reduces the chances of a c-section and other medical interventions.
3. Avoid labor induction, which can double the odds of a c-section. The reasons for the induction might be related to the ultimate reasons for the c-section but still, there's a bounty of evidence pointing to the over-use of the labor induction drug pitocin. Talk to your care provider about ways to avoid induction.
4. Change position in labor. Labor is a dynamic process. There is movement: the baby is turning and coming down and out. You are pushing down. Amazingly, labor works even when you a re lying on your back, but gravity-friendly positions, rocking back and forth and leaning forward can actually help move the baby down and out. Take a childbirth education class and learn about positions that help labor progress (good positioning also takes the edge off pain).
5. Avoid an early epidural. An epidural is neither "good" or "bad." It is not a cop out, it is nothing other than a tool for coping with pain. But we do have some research on the risks and benefits: An early epidural brings more risks than a late one. A late epidural after a very long labor, when mom is utterly exhausted, can actually give mom the rest she needs and actually help her deliver vaginally. But if you get an epidural before 5 centimeters the chances of a c-section do go up for a number of interconnected reasons. If you want to avoid other medical interventions and a c-section, try to hold off on an epidural until you're over 5 centimeters dilated.
For 5 more ways to reduce your chances of a surgical delivery, visit Babble.
MORE ON BABBLE:
10 Things Every Pregnant Woman Should Know Before Choosing a C-Section
Why Induced Labors are Twice as Likely to Result in C-Sections
Choosing a C-Section: My Fear, My Anger, My Empowerment