MIDWAY: Risks of C-sections

Ending up with an emergency C-section after three days in labour was, to say the least, a shock. The simple fact is that, although caesareans can be lifesaving, it’s just not how a baby is meant to be born.

Latest research says that babies born to mothers who elected for a C-section were nearly three times more likely to die in the first few weeks of life. The emphasis on the reporting was that women who have C-sections are selfish. The findings had a darker side that was not explored, which is that once you’ve had one C-section you often have to fight for a vaginal birth or VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). In many cases, women find themselves beaten into having a “voluntary’’ C-section.

At a talk I gave to a group of midwives I said, half jokingly, that next time I’d like to try for a home birth. “That would be really irresponsible of you,” a woman said. “There’s a high likelihood of your scar rupturing.” Ah, scar rupture. The threat that keeps C-section women in line: If you’re “selfish” enough to try for a vaginal birth next time, your womb will burst open. The chances of a scar rupture are real, but they stand at only 0.5 per cent. But the chances of suffering unstoppable bleeding during a caesarean, which results in an emergency hysterectomy, are 0.7 per cent.

Doctors and midwives rarely tell you that bit. Neither do many go into other caesarean risks: potential damage to the mother’s bladder and bowel, less chance of succeeding at breastfeeding, compromising of the baby’s immune system, that the baby may develop food allergies and asthma. They don’t tell you this because caesareans are easier to manage.

On my website, I’ve seen C-section women spend most of their pregnancies fighting not to have repeats. One woman is heralded a hero for having had three caesareans followed by a home birth! Considering that one of the prime factors for a successful VBAC is confidence, this is alarming. Women who have not given birth “naturally” often lack the belief that they can “do it”. The last thing they need are health professionals making them doubt themselves. My most chilling encounter was with a surgeon who said: “Yes, but do wom-en really need to know?” I happen to think they do.