Dispelling the Myths Around Cesarean Births and Post-Partum Recovery

By Kristy Ware | Health

Apr 09

I stood in the silent fluorescent lit hallway donning scrubs while my wife was rushed off to the OR. One minute she was inhaling laughing gas like it was free and the next minute we were surrounded by a dozen medical professionals preparing her for surgery.

Her birth plan didn’t include the hospital let alone a cesarean. I was gripped with fear, no doubt because of the sheer exhaustion from almost 24 hours supporting her labour, but also the fear that this could end badly.

My mind took me to all kinds of crazy places. I was scared. Worst case scenarios played out in my mind. As I paced the long corridor in anticipation, tears rolled down my cheeks. Like an angel, out of the silence appeared our rock solid midwife. She embraced me and assured me everything was going to be OK.

So many fears and worries accompany birth unnecessarily but when you’re faced with medical emergencies like ours, shit gets real fast. Although my fears were real, it’s totally possible that I had also watched too many episodes of ‘Call the Midwife’. The reality was that my wife or my son might not have survived such a major surgery if it wasn’t the 21st century, in Canada, and we didn’t have such a great medical system and team supporting us.

Truth be told, women have birthed babies since the beginning of time, and have done so with minimal support. Reality is, that sometimes things go smoothly and other times not so smoothly. We are thankfully living in a day and age when maternal fatalities are low. We can plan, prepare and take action so much faster than ever before.

My wife and I both know that if she had not been given the option of a cesarean birth that either her or our son would not have made it. That’s something to celebrate and something I am grateful for every day.

April is Cesarean Awareness month so it’s a great time to dispel the MYTHS around cesarean births. Many people have their own perspectives on the matter but here is what I know to be true:

[1] Your pelvic floor is not affected by a cesarean birth.

When you think about it, how could your pelvic floor not be affected if you conceived and carried the weight of a bowling ball in your belly for nine months? The pelvic floor is a series of muscles that support our internal organs as well as the weight of our babies. Regardless if you give birth by cesarean or vaginally, your pelvic floor still plays a major role in the process of pregnancy. Don’t underestimate the benefit of retraining the core no matter how you birthed your wee one.

[2] Using the term c-section is an appropriate short form.

Using slang terms or short forms for something major like a birth experience is frowned upon by many people in the birthing community as well as moms. A ‘C-section’ is a medical procedure. It diminishes the fact that a cesarean is actually a form of birth. Many mamas carry enough guilt around their birth experience that being conscious of the terms you use around them will go a long way. Call it a cesarean birth.

[3] Cesareans are less invasive.

A cesarean birth is the most invasive major surgery a woman can go through. The muscles in the tummy are cut, the body is opened and exposed to bacteria and a mom is left with a scar susceptible to infection and other complications. Although most women go through this experience smoothly, this is not something to be diminished or thought of as ‘just procedure’.

[4] You bounce back faster after a cesarean.

The recovery after birth for a cesarean is longer and in many cases more challenging than a vaginal birth. Given that layers of muscle in your core are cut to enable the baby to be taken out, this leads to longer recovery times and even complications like infections and poor healing. Lifting any amount of weight, including your baby, is also a challenge as the body begins to recover. Caring for your baby, managing the daily needs of the household and your return to an active lifestyle will take that much longer. An important time to slow down and honour the miraculous-ness of your body!

[5] You can’t have a vaginal birth after cesarean.

Something known as a VBAC is a vaginal birth after cesarean. There are many doctors and historical research that says this is not possible, but as time has passed research has proven otherwise. Will every woman that has had a first child by cesarean successfully birth their second child vaginally if they choose? No. But, the option is available to most women and can be successful. Each experience is different as are the circumstances around their birthing process.

[6] A cesarean is not a natural form of birth.

Some women feel that not giving birth vaginally is not a real or true birth. This could not be further from the truth. Your body created your baby, carried your baby, nourished your baby, and maybe even laboured for a time. No matter how your baby comes out, your story is your own and true to you.

If you or someone you know has experienced a cesarean birth, remember to give thanks for modern technology and for the options that exist that save lives. On the flip side, I also want you to remember that a woman’s body was created to birth babies. Do not let fear or the opinions of others deter you from a natural birthing experience, if your body is healthy and capable.

Nothing I shared here was to persuade you one way or another or say one option is good and another is bad. It was simply meant to honour every birthing process and bring awareness to cesarean births. The truth is that regardless of the way in which your baby is born, it is your story and your journey; honour it with confidence, mama. You are brave, you are strong and you are powerful.

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