Hearing from your midwife of doctor that they recommend a cesarean when you were hoping for a natural birth can be overwhelming and scary. Getting informed and focusing on how you can still have a positive experience can help you to look forward to your cesarean birth – after all it is the day you finally meet your baby!
The decision to have a cesarean is not always an easy one, so it is important that you ask your care providers all the questions you need so you can feel comfortable with your decision. While cesareans can be the best way for some babies to be born, we know that the cesarean rate continues to rise in Australia without there being a clear increase in improved outcomes for mothers and babies.
A cesarean birth isn’t always a hurried emergency, so most women will have time to have good discussion with their midwife and doctor. In the absence of an emergency, asking what the benefits and risks are of a cesarean, and if there are any alternatives that could be tried first can help you to make an informed decision. You may also like to ask for a second opinion if time allows. Take the time to discuss things with your birth partner too.
Once you have made the decision for a cesarean birth it is important to then focus on how we can make this as positive experience as possible. Most cesareans are done under a spinal anesthetic (similar to an epidural, but a stronger medication), which means you will be able to be awake when your baby is born. Many of your birth preferences may still be able to be achieved, so it’s a good idea to ask your midwife what aspects can still be achieved. If both you and your baby are healthy you should be able to have skin to skin with your baby in the operating theatre, and to breastfeed soon after the cesarean if you choose so.
The recovery from a cesarean is usually considerably longer than a vaginal birth, and varies from 6 weeks to quite a few months. It is important to rest and to remember that you are recovering from major abdominal surgery. Once you are able to get out of bed, moving around slowly can help you to feel more like yourself, and to reduce your risk of blood clots forming. Various pain relief options will be offered to you to after your cesarean depending on your pain levels. Many women find breastfeeding in a football hold position to be more comfortable, as this doesn’t put pressure on your cesarean incision.
Some common myths about cesarean births:
• A cesarean protects your pelvic floor.
Research has shown that this is not true, and it is more likely the pressure of carrying a baby for nine months of pregnancy that contributes to pelvic floor issues, as well as many other factors such as obesity, and aging.
• Once a cesarean, always a cesarean.
While this was once believed to be the case, in many circumstances, having a Vaginal Birth After a Cesarean (VBAC) is a great option for a woman and her baby. If your first baby is born via a cesarean, it does not necessarily mean that future babies need to be born this way.
• A cesarean is traumatic.
It is absolutely possible to have a calm, beautiful cesarean birth – after all this is the day you will meet your little baby! Having good knowledge, knowing your options and choosing a supportive care provider can make a big impact.
• Cesareans are the easy way out.
The pain after a cesarean birth is usually more than a vaginal birth, and the recovery is much longer. Women who require a cesarean should not be made to feel like they are taking the ‘easy way out’, as this is definitely not the case.
• You will struggle to breastfeed.
While a spontaneous labour and vaginal birth have many hormonal benefits which support breastfeeding, you can still breastfeed your baby if you have a cesarean. Having skin to skin after birth, and getting good support form a midwife or lactation consultant is really important in setting up a positive breastfeeding journey.
• You can’t use techniques like hypnobirthing.
Staying calm and relaxed is just as important in a cesarean birth! Hypnobirthing Australia have released a special Positive Cesarean Course specifically for women who are giving birth via a cesarean. All women deserve to have a positive birth, and for many women hypnobirthing can help them to achieve this.
As with all birth interventions, is important to make the right decision for you and your family. While cesareans do have risks, for some babies this is the best way for them to be born. Women should be fully informed of the benefits and risks of a cesarean and supported in whatever choice they make. You can absolutely still have a beautiful cesarean birth.
Article written by PBC Expo Midwife Hannah