Elective Caesareans – is there really anything wrong with not wanting to push?

July 8, 2013

Warning: This post may make you wince.

The Duchess of CambridgeAs the Duchess of Cambridge prepares to give birth, on Friday my colleagues and I were discussing labour and delivery. I was a bit surprised when one of them said that she would definitely opt for an elective Caesarean, even if she had to pay for it, because she is absolutely terrified of pain. In fact, the sheer anxiety about giving birth naturally would be enough to put her off ever even trying unless she could be assured her experience would be pain-free.

It goes without saying that if there is a health reason for an elective Caesarean, it should be given. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that actually, if there is a genuine emotional reason for not wanting to give birth naturally, perhaps it is better for the mum-to-be (and the baby) if she is able to give birth in the way that makes her feel most comfortable, and to have an elective Caesarean (and if there is an emotional well-being issue for wanting one, then it should really be available on the NHS, shouldn’t it?)

watermelonI have never been one of those women who believes you should wear natural childbirth as a badge of honour. My own experience of ‘natural’ childbirth wasn’t very pretty, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Before I became pregnant I remember a midwife telling me that a Caesarean was ‘just one more thing to go wrong,’ so I hadn’t really been thinking about a C-section, and no one had offered one to me. But take it from me, there is nothing scarier than being in labour and having a doctor look at your nu-nu and then say: ‘Has anyone said anything about the size of this baby?’ And try pushing an enormous watermelon out of a space really only big enough for a grapefruit (not literally, but you get the idea) with only an epidural and gas and air to help you on your way. That, compounded by the fact that the cord was around my baby’s neck, made the whole experience an absolute (bloody) nightmare. My son was born weighing 10lb 11-and-a-half oz. He was the biggest baby born in the hospital that week, and I had the 2nd degree lacerations to prove it. There is no question I would have had a C-section if I’d been offered one, and I probably should have been offered one fairly early on.

At the end of the day, surely the most important thing is that both mum and baby are well, and not stressed at all, and that their lives aren’t endangered, in any way. If you’re lucky enough to be able to give birth in a pool surrounded by candles to the sound of whale music then that’s great, but if it’s better for a woman (and her baby) to give birth in a different way, I believe she should have the option of doing so, and if that means more elective Caesareans, well perhaps that’s just the way it should be. But as ever, I’d love to hear your views.

(By the way, I took the photo of the Duchess of Cambridge at the launch of Royal Princess, which I was very lucky to be invited to. She looked AMAZING, without a hint of swollen ankles. I hope everything goes very smoothly for her this week.)




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  • kathleen @kat_rocket July 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I think it is a total myth that a lot of women have c sections for vanity reasons. It gives the media a chance to have a go at a celebrity and then we all fall for the nonsense. I know a fair few women who have had sections, myself included, and I don’t think any of us chose sections for vanity purposes. They were either emergencies or for valid medical reasons. I am fed up of feeling I have to apologise for the fact I had sections. It is nobody’s business quite frankly. Nobody asks somebody why they’ve had back surgery or a knee op. What is it to do with anyone how my children were born?
    The NHS argument is frequently brought out with the c section debate. I really think it’s over exaggerated to be honest and I think it’s sexist. Why is it up to women having babies to save the NHS money? The real problems for the population are obesity, smoking and excess alcohol and people not being active enough all of which lead to long standing chronic conditions which cost the NHS billions in ongoing treatments and interventions.
    Yes it is a longer recovery time and I struggled with the fact that I didn’t birth naturally for long time. I think the majority of women would rather a natural birth (and having worked on surgical wards I knew all about abdominal surgery thank you very much). But 5 and 3 years on, how they came into the world really doesn’t bother me anymore and it really shouldn’t be an issue for anyone else.

  • Crystal Jigsaw July 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Thought-provoking post as ever, Liz. Reading other comments here I think people do tend to have different views on this and in my opinion, that should be accepted. What I don’t agree with is c-sections being done purely for vanity or reasons that could be due to the mother assuming she is too superior to be seen in an undignified manner. Giving birth is a very natural process and one women have been doing since the dawn of time. It’s only in recent years that we’ve been lucky to have intense pain relief. I guess part of me thinks (and I know this won’t be looked upon favourably), if you think natural child birth is not for you, then why not think about adopting one of the thousands of babies out there waiting for a loving family.

    It’s a very thorny issue of course because so many people can’t have children, some lose children and so on, and we all know how passionate women get when it comes to their opinions of birth (don’t get me started on breast feeding!).

    CJ s

  • Mamacook July 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I think if it’s medically unnecessary it brings in other ethics. It is major surgery which is a cost to the NHS (or to you if you pay) but also there is long recovery time. Generally most births actually go pretty well naturally so there isn’t the need. I would prefer to try and deal with your friend’s fear of pain than suggest a C-section. She might find a hypnobirthing course helpful or a water birth. I had the latter and found it really calming. Maybe I was lucky but there was no point where I felt I couldn’t deal with the pain. Ironically though people rarely get to hear about uncomplicated births even though they are quite common because most people who did labour naturally don’t feel like there’s anything particularly to boast about. It’s still a sweaty tiring experience where you end up exposing yourself to a load of people (and in my case fainting on a midwife afterwards).

  • Kara Guppy July 9, 2013 at 8:32 am

    I had an emergency c-section two weeks ago and it was probably the worst experience of my life. After 5 natural births it was not what I was expecting and I hated being so out of control, however I am so grateful for the safe arrival of my little man.
    What a lot of people forget is that this is major abdominal surgery and takes a long time to recover from. With a natural birth you are up and about fairly quickly and going about your normal routine within a week or so. I am out for six weeks – I can’t even put a load of washing on, pick my two year old daughter up or even take the short walk to school.
    As someone who is normally so active it is a major frustration and also painful – I am still taking painkillers every day almost 3 weeks later!
    I certainly don’t think it’s the easy option and although childbirth is bloody painful – I’d choose that over a Caesarian any day!

  • Lauren July 8, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I had an elective 5 weeks ago, due to stress and worry about the size of the baby (her father was just shy of 12lbs and I was having nightmares (literally) about givingbirth to a giant. Turned out she was just under 8lbs BUT I dont regret not doing it ‘naturally’. It was a lovely experience and I would prefer to do it that way again, if we have another!

  • Paula fazekas July 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    I’ve had natural followed by an elective c-section due to a breech baby and personally I’d go natural everytime. However I think woken should be given the chance to choose and the right information to make an informed choice on labour and child birth.