In Australia? today, approximately one in three women give birth by caesarean section.Caesarean surgery, like any major surgery,? carries risks for both mother and baby and also any future babies the mother? has. Despite this, many people view caesareans as the safest and easiest way to? have a baby. Womens magazine stories of Hollywood? celebrities who have booked in for caesarean births have helped normalise the? idea that a caesarean is a desirable way to have a baby rather than a life? saving operation to be used in extreme circumstances.
So whats having a caesarean really like? Does a mother? really have more control over the birth and her babys wellbeing by having a? caesarean? Is it a neat, dignified experience? Are caesareans really pain free?? And why do so many women give birth by Caesarean?
Womens? experiences of caesareans vary a great deal. Some women feel empowered by them? stating that they have more control based on the false beliefs that caesareans? guarantee a healthy baby, are pain free or that caesareans avoid pelvic floor? damage. In this technological age, it may be true that some women feel more at? ease with the clinical, the scheduled and the routine of caesareans. A few? women have a pathological fear of childbirth, perhaps due to horror stories? theyve heard or seen on TV, or sexual assault during their childhood. Despite? these views, very few women ask for a caesarean without a medical reason. A? recent study done by the Childbirth Connection in the US (2006) found? that less than 1 percent of women requested an elective caesarean for no? medical reason.
The reality? for most women is that their obstetrician advises them to have a caesarean. The? reasons vary but with some obstetricians having caesarean rates of 50 percent? or more, you can bet that not all caesareans are necessary or even beneficial. The? same study by Childbirth Connection stated that 10% of women felt theyd been? pressured into a repeat caesarean by a health professional. Anecdotal evidence? by women supports this.
Gold Coast? mother of three, Deirdrie had her first baby by elective caesarean at a private? hospital.
“During my? pregnancy, I was thinking everything was going well until the week she was to? be?born when I was told that my baby was getting too big and my pelvis was? too small….I had another round of scans, including a pelvimetry showing she? would be at least 9lbs and it also showed my pelvis wouldnt birth a baby over? 8lbs. So under a lot of pressure and information based on fear, I decided to go? ahead with a planned caesarean.
“I now have? three children and my last was my biggest baby at 9lb 6oz, with a head? circumference of 37cm. She was born beautifully at home in the water vaginally.”
Brisbane? mother of two, Megan was planning a Vaginal Birth After Caesarean (VBAC) and? was at the end of her pregnancy when the pressure was put on: “My doctor said? we need to get this baby out as you are 15 days overdue and your baby could die? if we dont get it out-I really believe I was pressured because the next few? days were booked solid with caesareans due to the $3000 payment [new maternity? payment by the Federeal Government that came into effect in 2004].? I believe they pressured me so they could get? me out of the way.? I knew my baby was? ok.? I had seen the scan and CTG the day? before [that showed he was healthy].
Even though? caesareans are touted as safe, neat operations, the reality is that many women? feel that caesareans are one of the most disempowering and undignified? experiences a woman can endure. Experiences like this can compromise a mothers? emotional safety. The impact on mental health outcomes of these experiences has? not been accounted for to any large extent despite the fact that 15 percent of? women in this country suffer from postnatal depression and about 1 in 3 women? find childbirth traumatic.