Why are some women blamed for the caesarean section rate? To need a caesarean section on medical grounds is one thing, but what if a women is to opt for the operation for reasons of her own?
There seems to be a belief that there is a strain of pregnant mothers who choose caesarean section because they are too posh to push, don’t want to break a sweat, would like to schedule their labour, are following a celebrity birthing trend or who’s vaginal vanity is such that an alternate exit must be found. But does this woman really exist?
“Vaginal vanity is such that an alternate exit must be found.”
On the surface maybe these women deserve scorn? Do they not know the benefits of vaginal birth and the risks of caesarean? How could they put themselves before their babies?
Reasons deemed superficial can easily be dismissed and swept aside as inconsequential or idiotic. This is a missed opportunity to look at a mother’s motivations more closely, identifying the difficulties the individual has surrounding birth and then being able to refer to the appropriate courses of action. By labelling women individually and socially we are robbing them of the very tools and support they require to opt for a vaginal birth. Thereby diminishing and ignoring any real distress and not providing access to adequate help.
“By labelling women individually and socially we are robbing them of the very tools and support they require to opt for a vaginal birth.”
The decision is rarely, if ever, taken lightly and there are many factors that lead to the decision for a caesarean section. But assuming these reasons were the ones which a woman gave for wanting her section, are we then allowed to condescendingly assume that their reasoning is based on superficial and ill -informed beliefs?
Absolutely not. If you do give due consideration it may look something like this:
Too posh to push: Worried that their dignity will be hung up on the coat hook when they labour. That they will have to be naked, have their private parts observed publicly by many professionals. Have procedures done to them which they would rather not happen – that image of a woman on her back, leg in stirrups, bright lights and a crowd at the business end.
Don’t want to break a sweat: Worried that they can’t do it. ‘Am I fit enough? I’ve never been sporty.’ They don’t call it labour for nothing and it will be a lot of hard work. ‘I will not be able to cope’. Fear that labour will be too much for them and they will fail. So why go through the agony of 48 hours in labour and then need a section anyway?
Scheduled labour: Scared of the unknown. All those fears and anxieties about what will happen, what path will birth take, being out of control and being told when to push by others. Wanting to gain back some control of their body and of the process.
Following a celebrity trend: Looks up to celebrities – after all are celebrities not the pinnacle of our society? They are successful, clever, have all the best medical advice and all the resources that their vast fortunes can acquire. ‘I just want the best for myself and my baby?’ Celebrities are often seen as the best.
Vaginal vanity: It’s their body which they are proud of. Scared of episiotomy, tearing and forceps. Do they have to sacrifice their vagina and possibly their continence when they don’t have to? Worried about the changes this may have to sex itself but also sexual relationships.
These are adlibbed reasons behind the easy sound bites. They all generally stem from the same anxieties about birth which centre around: privacy, dignity, control, fear and self-doubt.
When you give absolutely any thought to the reasons a women might opt for a caesarean, if you acknowledge the women’s feeling as legitimate then they simply cannot be silly, wrong or superficial.
“If you acknowledge the women’s feeling as legitimate then they simply cannot be silly, wrong or superficial.”
Stored in the mothers head is everything they’ve unknowingly collected about birth. The positive and the negative. Previous birthing trauma of their own births, but also that of friends’, sisters’ and even their own mother’s trauma of bringing them into the world. How birth is treated in the media on television, films and in print. Also the general consensus held by society that birth is something we endure for the continuance of the species (and because babies are so irresistibly cute).
Sometimes ignorance is seen as the issue. However women need more than just information and statistics. Usually the knowledge that women require is not how statistically a vaginal birth is different from a caesarean. This could just lead to more negativity and guilt towards birth as they battle with the feelings within them which chooses a caesarean, even when in their head they logically know a vaginal birth is ‘better’ for them. What mothers really need to know is how to overcome their fears, anxieties, learn how their body can birth in comfort and how this all happens – so they are confident and empowered about their own upcoming birth.
The fear needs to be addressed and any emotional issues dealt with. If there is previous birth trauma a ‘run through’ with a midwife can be useful where the issues faced in the last birth can be discussed and addressed or more support such as referral to a therapist specialising in birth trauma can be offered.
Self- study or attending a course (such as The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme) relates how a mother’s body can birth in comfort and uses self-hypnosis techniques to address underlying emotions and fears. With knowledge, support and tools for relaxation women work past anxieties and become confident and empowered toward their own births.
“With knowledge, support and tools for relaxation women work past anxieties and become confident and empowered toward their own births.”
There is also the responsibility of the medical team. To let mothers know about birthing programmes, such as The Wise Hippo, which can help with birthing fears. Provide an environment which is calm, comfortable, feels safe and which the mother is very much in control of. With appropriate credence given to birth being an emotional event, no matter where she is on the low-high risk scale. Happily many hospitals, doctors and midwifes are already placing the birthing mother at the centre of the birth – with birthing choices given its place of importance.
Then there is the simple fact that what is medically deemed best is not always best for the mother. That if a mother chooses a caesarean section, for any reason, than a vaginal birth can not be best for her as it is not her choice. Failure to respect that choice or to guilt her out of a decision leads to more mental stress, to say the least.
If you believe in choice for birthing mothers then you have to let women exercise that right. When you judge a woman’s choice to have a caesarean section for supposedly superficial reasons you are yourself guilty of a higher level of superficiality, than the mother ever was.
“You are yourself guilty of a higher level of superficiality, than the mother ever was.”