Although Cesarean Sections, more commonly referred to as C-Sections, can be life saving and medically necessary, in many cases they are performed unnecessarily. The CDC states that nearly one third of all C-sections are performed on low risk- young birthing mothers. (1)
A C-section is the most commonly performed major surgery. According to the CDC, Nearly 1 in 3 births end in a c-section, that is approximately 1.3 million c-sections performed in the United States each year! (2)
Why have the C-Section rates risen so dramatically? Many blame the health of the laboring woman. Being overweight, diabetic, and having unstable blood pressure make you more at risk for your birth ending in a c-section. Obesity is at an all-time high and women are having children later in life. Although these may be factors, this is not the entire story. The rate of C-sections performed on low-risk mothers has also drastically risen. C-sections are a miraculous, life-saving surgery for both the laboring person and the baby, but somehow the numbers are not matching up. During the years of 1995 to 2007, the C-section rates sky-rocked without a reciprocal decrease in fetal and maternal mortality rate. On the contrary, the United States has the worst rate of maternal mortality among the developed world. See Maternal Mortality Rate List Here.
So, what can you do preemptively to reduce your risk of C-section?
Choose a birthing location and provider with a low C-section rate. It has been found that the number one risk factor for your birth ending in a c-section is a busy hospital.
Interview your birthing provider on mandatory procedures and protocols that they intend to have you follow during your labor. This will determine if this provider is the right fit for you and if they plan on working with you towards your birthing plan.
Eat a well balanced diet. This is an opportune time to nourish your body. Fill your plate with fresh vegetables, grass fed meats, seasonal fruit, and good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee. This will not only stabilize your weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar, but it will provide optimal nutrients to lay the building blocks of your child's body.
Move your body. Movement is key to maintaining health during pregnancy and having endurance during labor. Do something that you enjoy. Going for a walk is a great start, but incorporate squats and arm exercises as well. You will need that arm strength when baby comes!
Take a birthing class & educate yourself. It is important to know the risks and benefits of all routine procedures prior to entering the hospital. This will aid in you making an informed decision regarding your health and the health of your baby. Birthing classes also give you physical and mental laboring tools that you can use.
Is baby breech? Baby being breech is a sign that there is some compensation within the pelvis that is keeping baby from finding space to go into the head down position. Find a chiropractor certified in the Webster Technique. Chiropractic restores the normal biomechanics of the birthing person's pelvis. It is safe for both the birthing person and baby. Spinning Babies also has great resources on restoring balance within the pelvis.
Labor at home as long as possible.
Avoid unnecessary vaginal exams after your water has broken. This increases the incidence of infection which could warrant a C-section.
Avoid labor induction such as Cytotec and Ptocin. These induction techniques start the cascade, usually leading to an Epidural. Ptocin can also lead to fetal distress and maternal exhaustion as it increases uterine contractions without ample rest in between.
Avoid an Epidural as long as possible. An epidural is a great tool to reduce pain sensation and provide some time of rest to a laboring person, but it may also lead to longer labor time without the ability to freely move. An Epidural can cause an infection, allergic reaction, inhibits release of oxytocin, and can affect fetal heart rate and oxygen levels.
Request intermittent electronic fetal monitoring or the use of a fetoscope. Medical research has shown that continuous electronic fetal monitoring can increase the risk of Cesarean without related improvement in outcome for the baby.
There are many things you can actively do prior to labor in order to reduce your risk of birth ending in a C-section.
1. Michell Osterman, “Trends in Low Risk Cesarean Sections in the US”, Center for Disease Control
2. Martin Joyce, “Births: Final data of 2018”, Center for Disease Control