pregnancy

BEC SPARROW: All you know about c-sections is probably wrong. Trust me, I've had 4.

Almost every week, a new “study”, news article, or blog makes headlines claiming various dangers for babies born via C-section. From higher risks of chronic illness to claiming they are just for convenience, they are incredibly unhelpful for mothers who delivered their babies by C-section. 

You cannot undo how you gave birth to your child, and C-sec mums already have to live with a barrage of deeply unhelpful assumptions about their babies and their births. 

As Bec Sparrow previously wrote for Mamamia:

It was a headline too good to ignore. A lure, I couldn’t go past.

“The major caesarean problem nobody talks about!” whispered the article on my Facebook feed.

What? What problem? There’s a major problem nobody talks about?

I had to click.

I had to click which is err, RIDICULOUS. I say ridiculous because – are you ready for this? – I’ve had four.

Listen to Bec Judd and Holly Wainwright talk about finally giving birth on our podcast just for new parents, Hello Bump. (Post continues after audio.)

Yep. Four. Four caesareans. Four sunroofs. Four times I’ve had a baby airlifted out. When I’m not writing or trying to scrape dried weetbix off the wall, or Googling “Is Roger Corser married?”, I like to spend my time in an unflattering hospital gown having major stomach surgery. That’s how I roll.

So I clicked to see what major problem I’d unwittingly endured four times. What I found – yet again – was an article on caesarean sections that was filled with misinformation and designed to scare the beejebus out of any pregnant woman.

Have a caesarean and you won’t be able to drive for six weeks, it said.

You’ll have trouble bonding with your baby, it said.

You can’t pick up your baby for weeks, it said.

You won’t be able to breastfeed, it said.

You’ll be forced to have caesareans forever more, it said.

What a load of crap. That’s what I said.

Because none of that is ‘fact’.

And I’m rather tired of the anti-caesarean propaganda campaign that is alive and well online.

Let me just unpick a few of these untruths.

1. Driving.

Ring your car insurer and they’ll tell you that you can drive after a caesarean when YOU or your DOCTOR feels you are ready to drive. I was driving after each of my surgeries within 7-10 days of being out of hospital. It’s an individual thing but six weeks for everyone? MYTH.

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Bec after the birth of her son, Fin. 

2. Bonding.

My babies were placed on my chest within minutes of being delivered and I was breastfeeding within an hour of their deliveries. I had a strong and immediate bond with each of my beautiful babies. But what are the facts?

There are a number of factors that can affect a mother’s ability to bond with her new baby (including her stress levels and negative feelings about HAVING a caesarean-section). What doctors and midwives will tell you is that having skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight away is paramount where possible.

According to Queensland Health, “Babies who are placed straight into naked body contact with their mothers interact more, stay warmer and cry less. For mothers the oxytocin (hormone) that is released makes her feel more affectionate, less anxious and assists in milk let-down. Skin-to-skin contact is important for all mothers and babies and is an important component for successful breastfeeding initiation and duration.”

Mothers who have had caesarean-sections can still have skin-to-skin contact either in the operating theatre or in the recovery area depending on their individual situation.

3. Picking up baby. 

Most c-section mothers are doing that within around 12 hours. Maternity ward staff encourage caesarean patients to be up and walking around 12 hours post-surgery and that includes picking up your little bundle. So what about those first 12 or so hours? When you’re awake you can have the baby next to you in bed (though co-sleeping is often not recommended for any new mums) or ask the staff to position the cot next to your hospital bed and simply hit that buzzer the moment your baby cries so that the nurses (or your partner or family member) can hand baby to you when he or she needs a feed or a cuddle.

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Bec with her kids, today. Plenty of bonding. Image via Facebook.

4. It will make breastfeeding harder. 

I certainly didn’t find this but here’s what the Australian Breastfeeding Association has to say about breastfeeding after caesareans: “There is a perception that a mother’s milk is slower to ‘come in’ after a caesarean. The ‘switch on’ of lactation after a baby is born is caused by the removal of the placenta, which in turn results in a change in the balance of hormones circulating in the blood. Studies have shown that some babies born by caesarean-section take a little longer to regain their birth weight than other babies, but this is not significant after a few days, and is unlikely to have any long-term effects.”

5. You'll have caesareans forever.

Again, not true. According to the Queensland Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Guidelines, “Most women with one previous caesarean birth with no additional risk factors are candidates for planned vaginal birth after caesarean section (VBAC).”

According to the report, VBAC has a success rate of 60- 80% which is comparable to the vaginal birth rate in women who have never given birth before.

So having one caesarean does not necessarily mean you can never experience a vaginal delivery.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not here waving the caesarean-section flag hoping to sign up new recruits. It’s major surgery. And if you’re thinking of having a caesar simply because you are afraid of labour, I would encourage you to talk to your doctor or midwife about pain relief options and techniques for vaginal births. After all, why go through a major surgery if you don’t need to? That said, it’s none of my business what you decide.

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"I had a strong and immediate bond with each of my beautiful babies." Image via Facebook.

So why have I had four c-sections? (I know you’re wondering …) My first caesarean was an emergency caesar when I was 41.5 weeks pregnant. After a two day long induction and a baby whose 38 cm head was now jammed in my pelvis – I was wheeled into the theatre to have her safely delivered. I planned to experience a vaginal birth with my second baby but when she was stillborn before her due date I opted to deliver her by caesarean rather than spend hours in labour which I felt would traumatise me further. That’s a deeply personal decision that only the mother of a stillborn baby can make. And after that, and because I was now deemed a high-risk patient with two c-section surgeries under my belt – I delivered my next two children via caesarean.

All I’m asking is that we change the way we talk about having caesarean-sections. We need to stop perpetuating myths that communicate an undertone that caesars are a horrible “last resort” and that women who have them are having a failed birth experience.

And while sharing stories is important we need to be mindful that one individual’s blow-by-blow experience is rarely if ever universal.

People can have wonderful caesarean experiences and horrible ones.

People can have wonderful vaginal births and traumatic ones.

People can have wonderful natural births and nightmarish ones.

People can love or hate the hospital. Their doctor. The midwives. The quality of the cake that is served at morning tea.

Spreading misinformation about caesareans just creates a climate of fear and a greater likelihood that a new mother will feel traumatised by what is a legitimate and can certainly be a positive way to bring a baby into the world.

Arm yourself with knowledge when you’re pregnant, understand that things may not go to plan and keep your eye firmly on the prize: safely delivering a new little person into the world.

To read and see more from Rebecca Sparrow, follow her on Facebook, here

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