Many years ago, a friend told me that she’d had such a painful recovery from her episiotomy that she wanted to schedule an elective cesarean section for the birth of her second child.

I was stunned that this well-educated woman believed that recovering from major abdominal surgery while taking care of a newborn and a toddler would be somehow easier then recovering from a vaginal birth. I pointed this out to her and she seemed stunned to be reminded that a c-section was major surgery. 

“I think I just want to schedule a c-section. It’ll be easier.”  This is a phrase I hear frequently from my patients at different points of pregnancy, sometimes as early as their first visit. It makes me cringe. 

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Celebrities have made elective cesarean sections the glamorous choice.  Childbirth seems so easy when you see airbrushed photos a few weeks later of a glowing starlet and her newborn. The accompanying articles mention her planned surgical delivery briefly before delving into the nursery décor. 

What people fail to remember is that a c-section is major abdominal surgery and should be done only when absolutely necessary for the mother’s or the baby’s safety. There are more risks or complications inherent in a surgical birth than in a normal vaginal birth. 

No one seems to want to discuss these risks. I only hear worries of stretched out vaginas and fear of the pain of birth. I hear how nice it will be to pick the baby’s birthday. 

Moms frequently beg me for c-sections during labor. This I understand, yet I’m always able to remind them that the brief pain and hard work of labor will be over once the baby is born, unlike the recovery process from a surgical birth. 

Some obstetrical providers seem all too willing to go along with patient request for elective c-section. Why not? It is much easier to book an operating room for 9:00 am on a Tuesday than it is to be up all night with a laboring mom.

I’m blessed to work with a group of obstetricians that encourages most pregnant moms to labor and birth vaginally. Birth was not designed to be scheduled like a massage or a dental cleaning, though we have the benefit of this option in special medical circumstances. 

A c-section takes at least eight weeks to recover from fully, and dealing with this can be challenging with a newborn. Pregnant women and their families deserve honest communication regarding the risks and disadvantages of elective c-section.