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.
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.