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The truth about caesarean sections – a doctor’s guide

Confused by all of the conflicting information about c-sections? Gynaecologist Gabrielle Downey is here to bust the most common myths even the most experienced mums believe

No matter how you feel about them, it’s a fact that at least 25 percent of all deliveries are by caesarean section. Some are planned, but most are an emergency. There are many good and not so good reasons for this, but unless we are willing to accept the death rates for the mother and baby in resource-poor countries, they are here to stay.

The benefits of a c-section

So, what’s good about caesarean sections? In a planned (elective) situation, you have more control over events. You know the date in advance and can plan. They are quick (usually less than 45 minutes in total) and most doctors let you see the baby being delivered and take pictures. Your scar is neat and in a part of your body that you don’t use much. You have pain relief for the delivery and afterwards. You don’t have trauma to your vagina (birth canal) and thus sex will feel the same afterwards. At least 10 percent of women who have a vaginal delivery will have some form of damage to bowel and bladder function, which may take many years to become evident.

In a planned c-section, you have more control over events. You know the date in advance and can plan.

Some women are so afraid of vaginal birth that they avoid getting pregnant unless they can have a caesarean delivery whilst some simply want the control a planned caesarean section gives. It is important that you explore the reasons why you are thinking of a caesarean section as, with support, you may wish to consider a vaginal birth. Babies born by caesarean section are more likely to develop asthma in childhood and to become overweight for reasons that are uncertain

The costs of a c-section

What’s not so good? There will be a lot of people in the operating room. The anaesthetic (usually a single needle in the back that works within 5 to 10 minutes) can drop your blood pressure, give you “the shakes” and you can feel sick – not good when you are lying flat on your back. You feel movement, and in a small number of women the block is incomplete, that is, uyou feel pain or sharp tugging and have to be put to sleep. The recovery time is longer than a vaginal birth (a few more days,) and you have to stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours afterwards compared to six hours after a vaginal delivery. The scar is numb for many months but does eventually heal completely so you are unaware of it.

The recovery time for a c-section is longer than a vaginal birth, and you have to stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours afterwards compared to 6 hours after a vaginal delivery.

So, what’s the truth about the ‘myths’? Let’s face it, nearly everyone who has had a baby has an opinion about childbirth!

The truth about c-section myths

1. ‘Once a caesarean always a caesarean’

newborn The truth about caesarean sections Healthista

NO! You can have a vaginal delivery if you wish—70 percent of women are successful the second time around. The main risk is scar rupture, but it only happens to one in 200 women with a previous caesarean section. The risk of scar rupture increases with the number of previous caesareans you have had, however, thus you may be advised to have a planned caesarean.

2. ‘You don’t bond with your baby as well’  

touching hands The truth about caesarean sections Healthista

I think the only time this may be true is a general anaesthetic caesarean as you do not get to see the baby being born and you are much more “out of it” from the drugs for a number of hours. In reality, I don’t think that the bond of mother and child is solely dependent on which body part the baby exited from. Most maternity units practice ‘skin-to-skin’ as soon as possible with mum and baby even if the birth was by caesarean. Nature does what it needs to do.

I don’t think that the bond of mother and child is solely dependent on which body part the baby exited from.

3. ‘You can’t breastfeed’ 

breastfeeding The truth about caesarean sections Healthista

Yes, you can. The baby is usually put to your breast (if you wish) within 15 minutes of the end of the procedure. The midwife will advise the most comfortable positions.

4. You can’t walk for days

scar The truth about caesarean sections Healthista

You will be out of bed the next day, but your mobility will be reduced compared to a vaginal birth. The scar is painful when getting out of bed, off a chair and twisting. This reduces with time, although the time varies for each woman. Don’t be a martyr and avoid pain relief. Avoid anything that puts pressure on the scar, but this is trial and error.

The scar is painful when getting out of bed, off a chair and twisting.

5. Your muscles take longer to recover

stroller The truth about caesarean sections Healthista

They do not as the muscles are not cut at caesarean but gently pushed apart. Any lack of tone is as a result of the pregnancy, not the delivery. Take your time to recover and build up your exercise gently – walk with the pram at first.

6. You can’t drive for six weeks

mom and baby in car The truth about caesarean sections Healthista

You can actually drive whenever you want, as long as you feel in control of your vehicle, can do an emergency stop safely and there is no clause on your insurance that says otherwise.

7. Emotional distress is greater as you have ‘failed as a mum’

sad mom The truth about caesarean sections Healthista

This gets me mad as what makes you a ‘good mum’? It is certainly not the way the baby came into the world. Enter pregnancy with the aim of delivering a healthy baby and remain healthy yourself in order to care for him or her. That should be your primary aim, so don’t let yourself be bullied or blackmailed into thinking anything else is more important.

don’t let yourself be bullied or blackmailed into thinking anything is more important than your being healthy

8. You will not have a choice of type of delivery next time

smiling mom The truth about caesarean sections Healthista

You always have a choice; it just has to be an informed choice, being aware of all the risks and benefits. Whichever way the baby comes out, be proud of yourself. You have grown this baby from an embryo, kept it safe for nine months and brought it into the world. You rock!

Whichever way the baby comes out, be proud of yourself.

READ MORE:

7 ways to pregnancy-proof your body

What REALLY happens to your body during pregnancy?

Want a flat stomach after having a baby? Here’s why ab crunches won’t work and the 16-week post-pregnancy programme that does

Read more from Downey:

From heavy bleeding to no periods – 3 menstrual problems and EXACTLY what your GP should do

Why sex hurts – the gynaecologist’s guide

Gabrielle Downey Why sex hurts and what to do about it - the gynaecologist’s guide Healthista

Dr. Gabrielle Downey is a Birmingham-based consultant gynaecologist. She has been a consultant gynaecologist at the Birmingham City Hospital for over 15 years. Dr. Downey publishes regularly in renowned journals and writes for medical textbooks, was a co-author to the current NHS cervical smear program and has specialist expertise in problems such as abnormal smears among many other conditions.

Click here to read more about Dr Downey.

 

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