Vaginal birth: This is the way nature intended for a woman to give birth. In fact, your body was made to do it. The hormonal and bio-chemical process that leads from full-term baby to a healthy vaginal birth includes a seemingly infinite number of steps. It’s so complicated that even our modern medical scientists aren’t 100% sure how it all works. What we do know is this:

  • A healthy vaginal birth is healthier for mother and baby.
  • Natural childbirth allows the body to release endorphins – including the “love hormone” oxytocin, which facilitates breastfeeding and the mother/baby bonding process. This process is blocked when a C-section is administered.
  • Babies who are born vaginally have fewer complications when it comes to latching and breastfeeding.
  • Women who give birth vaginally are less prone to postnatal pregnancy complications and recover from their birth much quicker than women who have C-sections.
  • Vaginal births result in shorter hospital stays, less risk of infection and a baby who is introduced to all of the healthy probiotics and microbials as it passes through the mother’s birth canal.

For this reason, we always encourage women to avoid C-sections when at all possible. Here are some of the statistics and explanations to back up our mother and baby-centered childbirth practice:

Newborn baby after birth

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Vaginal Birth Benefits: Know the Risks When You Electively Opt for a C-Section

Let us be very clear that we are not talking about C-sections that are administered to protect the health of the mother and baby. There are certainly times – although much less often than not – when a C-section is the best means of ensuring everyone’s well-being. However, we would also like to point out that the current rate for C-sections in the United States is significantly higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends. After analyzing global statistics, the best birth outcome for mother and baby exists when C-section rates are between 5% and 10%. Currently, the U.S. C-section rate is around 32%. That’s a staggering difference.

As healthcare providers who provide obstetric care to mothers and babies, we’re concerned about these rates because:

C-Section is a major surgery. Do not let it fool you. Just because it’s the most common surgical procedure administered to adults between the ages of 18 and 44 in the U.S., that doesn’t make it safe. In fact, complications from C-sections are not uncommon, including unintended surgical cuts, infection, severe pain or discomfort around the incision site, readmission to the hospital, emergency hysterectomy and blood clots. It is also much harder to care for your baby due to movement restrictions and discomfort that lasts for ten days to weeks, depending on your situation.

Maternal death rates are noticeably higher with C-sections. We don’t want to be major alarmists here, but it’s very important that mothers understand the risks posed to their own life by a caesarian section. A joint publication by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the College) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine states that about 13 out of every 100,000 C-sections will result in the death of the mother, while only about 4 out of every 100,000 women will die as a result of complications from vaginal birth. Again, if a C-section is absolutely necessary, it makes sense to take the risk. Otherwise, you are best off choosing healthcare providers who prioritize vaginal birth and who avoid inducing labor unless absolutely necessary, knowing that inducing labor without evidence of any fetal or maternal complications increases a mother’s chance of having a C-section by as high as 67%.

C-sections pose significant risks to babies. While some of the more major risks – like surgical cuts to the baby and neonatal death – are more rare, others are very real. Babies who are born via C-section have higher rates of respiratory problems and experience more difficulty breastfeeding (attributed to the lack of oxytocin present in their system as well as the copious amounts of narcotics present in their blood stream. Newborn babies are slower to process the surgical narcotics out of their system, dulling their instinctual responses). Also, babies are often born underweight due to the inaccuracies involved with “guessing” birth weights and gestation. It’s not uncommon for a woman to be talked into an induction because “the baby is too big” only to learn after the induction-related C-section that the baby was a perfectly healthy weight – or is underweight – and now has respiratory complications because she was born earlier than she should have been.

Babies born via C-section are at higher risk for later childhood diseases. Interestingly, children who are born via C-section have a higher risk of developing serious medical conditions later in life, including asthma, childhood-onset diabetes and chronic allergies.

C-sections put you at risk during future pregnancies. Perhaps some of the most serious risks from pregnancies are those that affect the mother after her birth. Women who have had C-sections are more prone to have ectopic pregnancies. Their fertility rates decrease and future pregnancies pose a greater threat of placenta problems, like placenta previa (where the placenta covers the cervix), placenta abruptia (where it tears away from the uterus wall) and placenta accrete (where it grows into the C-section scar). Women who have had C-sections are significantly more likely to have future C-sections, and the risks escalate with these successive pregnancies and surgeries.

Here at Overlake, we always prioritize the health of our mothers and babies first. We work to empower women and provide tremendous labor support – via our doctors and midwives – so they can enjoy a health, full-term labor and vaginal birth if at all possible. Would you like to work with a team of women who has your back (and your belly) every step of the way? Contact us to schedule an appointment.