Today’s mom isn’t always willing to wait until that water breaks. For some women, a C-section is a welcome solution to uncertainty, fear, and fatigue, so that many are asking their doctors about scheduling an elective C-section. An elective C-section is one that occurs for no perceived medical reason – not because you’re baby is late or you’re a high-risk patient. Experts suggest that increased elective C-sections add momentum to rising C-section rates. Currently, 30.2% of U.S. births are done by Cesarean, the highest rate ever and an increase of 46% in 10 years (National Center for Health Statistics).
So, why is this a hot topic? Because C-sections are a serious operation, involving risk to baby and to mother, both at the time and down the road! For example, babies born via Cesarean are more likely to end up needing the services of the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and of suffering from lung problems, as reported by a Norwegian study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Cesarean babies often have more trouble learning to nurse, and babies born by elective C-section may miss out on vital time in the womb to complete optimal development and maturation. Plus, if a mother delivers by C-section, she’s likely to need to do so again. When you balance these risks against the gains in terms of a mother’s relief, you see the controversy. Why would a doctor, whose role is to protect and preserve mother and baby’s health, agree to preform a procedure that carries significantly more risk than a normal vaginal birth, for no medical reason?
Where do you come down? Personally, I think that doctors would do better to address a woman’s fears by discussing pain relief options and encouraging her to consider additional support in the way of a midwife and/or doula. And as far as timing goes, don’t babies really know best when they’re ready? I’m all for inducing at 42 weeks, or if the baby is showing signs of distress, but if everything looks peachy in there, I don’t think it’s best to pull baby out early.
When the choice is between my comfort, and the health of my baby’s (not to mention my own), it’s a clear choice for me.