Oct 02, 2014

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Rethinking the First C-Section

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Photo by: Tammra McCauley

I got my way. As soon as I said I wanted a c-section, preparations for surgery began. I was requesting major abdominal surgery and it was being given to me (no-questions-asked) in the absence of any true medical emergency.

The facts:

  • I was 38 ½ weeks pregnant—I had almost two weeks left to my due date, with no signs of labor.
  • My body wasn’t ready—my cervix wasn’t dilated or effaced at all.
  • I had gestational diabetes which was being monitored and well-controlled through diet.
  • My baby was estimated at a maximum weight of 8 lbs.—He was actually 9 lbs. 4 oz. (FYI: These tests are highly inaccurate much of the time.)
  • My blood pressure (which was “borderline high”) returned back to normal after a few short hours of bed rest and proper hydration provided me in the hospital.

True, I was sitting in the hospital, but where was the medical emergency needed to justify a c-section? At what point would the risks of major abdominal surgery be explained to me? Never. Unfortunately, that’s how it’s routinely done for women birthing in the U.S.  Most first-time expectant mothers have no idea what they’re up against once they go to the hospital.

Would I have been happier if I was forced to have a vaginal birth? Absolutely not. Not under the birthing conditions they would have placed on me. I would have had to accept 48 hours of Pitocin, a powerful labor-inducing drug which triggers contractions far more intense than naturally-occurring contractions.  I was afraid to experience natural labor, but I was more afraid of having 48 consecutive hours of artificial labor! And what if I needed a c-section after all that exhaustion? My first birth might be so traumatic that I may never want to have another baby again. My dreams of having a big family could be ruined!

“The c-section seems inevitable anyway,” my heart told me, “so let’s skip the drama and get the baby out. I just want to meet my baby boy. Nothing else matters.” Um, yeah, nothing except protecting my own body, mind, and motherly intuition. (But I didn’t know any of that at the time.)

What if a very knowledgeable and caring birth counselor came to my bedside and discussed my fears with me? What if he/she could have encouraged me to go home, get on bed rest, stay hydrated and wait patiently for my baby to come? This counselor could have reassured me that my body would know (all by itself) exactly what to do when the time came, despite my “new-mom” lack of confidence. He/she could have explained to me that natural labor progresses gradually to allow mom time to adjust to each new level of discomfort, and in this way, drug-free labor is more manageable than people think.

At the same time, all the risks I was facing by requesting a non-emergency c-section could have been outlined for me, such as the high risk of infection (potentially deadly), the increased risk of post-partum depression and bonding problems, the breastfeeding difficulties, and the harsh realities of recovering from surgery (while caring for a newborn!)

In the hospital, no birth counselors exist to help new moms rationally make good choices for themselves. I hope I can help you think twice before agreeing to (or requesting) an unnecessary c-section.

The last thing you want to do is get labeled as having a previous c-section. This automatically makes you “high risk” for future births. Once that happens, your chances of birthing naturally (under the care of an obstetrician) are extremely slim.

But, it can be done! Stay tuned for my upcoming article about how to successfully have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) which I accomplished four years after my first c-section.

Healthy Birthing!

Melissa Martinez-Machado

*To learn more about c-sections, visit the International Cesarean Awareness Network website: http://www.childbirth.org/section/ICAN.html

Melissa is a stay at home mother of two, and is currently pregnant with baby # 3. She is a certified Holistic Health Counselor and the Founder of Organic Hispanic Health.

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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Comments

  1. Wow, thanks for sharing your story. As a first time mom, I had my daughter naturally, but I had to fight for that right. Often times, hospitals will push moms into c-sections because it is seen as “safer”, mainly for physicians and sometimes for moms. Natural birth is seen as risky, even though it’s the way we’ve been doing it forever! Through my whole pregnancy I was pressured again and again and told that a c-section would be necessary. That my daughter would be 9 lbs + because of my gestational diabetes. She ended up being 7 lbs, 7 oz! Anyway, my point is…doctors don’t know it all. We have to do our own research and trust our mommy instincts. And Melissa, you are right on that it is hard for first time moms to trust themselves without that support and knowledge from either family or caregivers. Too many times we are on our own and that is scary when lives and health hang in the balance. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

    • Thank you for sharing your story, too, Chantilly! I know I am not alone in this experience. If women knew how innacurate many of these diagnostic tests really are, we’d be less inclined to let the doctors persuade us to opt for a non-emergency c-section. The whole trick is to research for yourself what constitutes a true medical emergency

    • Thank you for sharing your story, too, Chantilly! I know I am not alone in this experience. If women knew how innacurate many of these diagnostic tests really are, we’d be less inclined to let the doctors persuade us to opt for a non-emergency c-section. The whole trick is to research for yourself what constitutes a true medical emergency and know your right to refuse anything you are being offered outside of that. I am so glad there are women like you out there encouraging young women to trust the process of natural birth!

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