Wednesday, 11 May 2011
(As a disclaimer, I don't know each of your individual situations so don't think I'm criticizing anyone personally if they ended up with a c-section. A recent Momaroo post just reminded me of a pet peeve I have with doctors.)
Many times when a pregnant woman nears the end of her pregnancy she considers an induction. After all, she's tired of being pregnant, her due date is right around the corner, and it's so nice to know exactly when the baby will be born. Her doctor is open to it or even suggests it since her baby seems to be "on the large size."
Said woman sets the date and shows up to the hospital to have her baby. She gets the cervix softener, is hooked up to the pitocin, and after enduring contractions for a few hours, opts for an epidural. All seems to be going smoothly and the doctor comes in to break her water around 3 cm. But then, things start slowing down.
She never dilates past a 4 or 5 and labor seems to stall. The pitocin is increased and then the baby starts responding poorly. After a while the doctor comes in and tells the now distraught woman, "I'm sorry, but your body isn't responding the way it should. For the sake of the baby, we will have to perform a c-section."
The woman is a bit disappointed, but that wears off once she is united with her brand new daughter. Later on, she questions her doctor about why the induction failed and is told, "Well, since your cervix wouldn't dilate fast enough, it appears your body isn't made to have babies vaginally." From then on that woman forever believes that her cervix and pelvis are "broken" and cannot perform their natural function. She never gets a second opinion or considers a vaginal birth again.
Why do doctors say this when they have such little evidence to support it? If so many of us are "broken," how has the human race survived? Lest you think I'm exaggerating the issue, I have FIVE friends who were told this in the past two years. And that's out of the TEN or so friends that have had babies in that time.
I know the c-section rate is technically only 31% or so, but that's still too high! When your OB suggests an induction and then an epidural, they never explain to you that your risk of ending up with a c-section increases greatly when you opt to start labor early.
All of those Braxton Hicks contractions and "false" labor we deal with in the last trimester help prep our bodies for labor. In fact, it's not truly false labor. Those contractions are softening our cervixes and bringing the baby lower into the birth canal. When doctors attempt to dilate a hard cervix and jump start contractions in our bodies, it's no wonder our bodies won't respond they way we want them to.
I want to encourage every pregnant woman I know to let your labor start naturally. Labor at home as long as possible to prevent unnecessary interventions at the hospital. Once you get to the hospital, resist the urge to have your water broken (if it hasn't already) because labor is more painful once you do and your doctor will put you on a deadline to have the baby.
Also hold off on the epidural as long as you can (try to get to a 6 or 7) because occasionally epidurals can stall your labor as well (which then results in pitocin being used). If your doctor recommends using pitocin to speed your labor up, refuse unless he or she can give you a really good reason for it (like if you've been in labor for 36 hours or so or if your water has broken and you're coming up against the deadline).
If you're nearing the end of your pregnancy and your doctor suggests an induction, question them thoroughly and weigh the pros and cons. Obviously if your health dictates it or your husband is deploying to Afghanistan, you may have no other option, but do your research ahead of time and realize that things like being "overdue" and the possibility of having a big baby are not good enough reasons to induce labor. (Take it from a 95-pound woman who delivered a 9-pound baby at 41 weeks with no drugs.)
Sometimes your doctor will be insistent, but offer to come in for additional appointments, stress tests, or sonograms to make sure the baby and placenta are fine. If you do have to have an induction, try natural means of starting labor ahead of time, ask that the pitocin be started slowly, and wait to have your water broken so as to not put yourself on a deadline.
Above all, I encourage all of you to do your research, get second opinions, and be informed as to your choices. Take pride in being a woman and take charge of your bodies during childbirth!
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Did you have a C-Section under these circumstances? Did your doctor offer?