Cesarean Awareness Month: Why is it so hard to get a vaginal birth?

April is Cesarean Awareness Month. You may wonder why an entire month needs to be devoted for raising awareness about c-sections. Here’s why. The c-section rate in the United States is on the rise at an alarming rate. It’s estimated that in 2008 over 1.3 million babies in the US were born by c-section, accounting for 32.3% of all births. It also marks the 12th consecutive year the Cesarean birth rate has risen, despite a number of medical organizations — including The World Health Organization (WHO) and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) — urging medical care providers to work on lowering the Cesarean birth rates and increase access to Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (VBAC).

Cesarean Awareness Month - April

My Gentle Birthing Blog discusses that while VBAC is often suggested as an option to a woman who has had a c-section, in reality, VBACs are hard to come by due to the fact that many hospitals no longer allow them.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the C-section rate in the United States has risen 53% since 1996. Cesarean birth is being overused, and VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is being grossly underused, at about 8%, because many hospitals are outlawing VBACs. Because of bans on VBACs, women have been denied access in over 40% of hospitals in the United States. The National Institutes of Health has found that VBACs are reasonably safe for women who had a previous cesarean birth and are low risk for uterine rupture.

Andrea Owen says, “Fighting for my own VBAC has changed my life. I don’t use that term very often, only when I truly mean it. It opened my eyes up to the world of American obstetrics, and how far we’ve come away from birth as a natural process. In my opinion, we’ve shoved a big, fat middle finger in Mother Nature’s face.”

And in the sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction category, the Keyboard Revolutionary wants to know how it is that “a woman can waltz in off the street, say she’s pregnant and wants a Cesarean, and everyone leaps to her command….yet a woman who IS pregnant has to jump through hoops and fight tooth and nail just to give birth vaginally?” Yep, in 2008 in Fayetteville, NC, a woman who was NOT even pregnant was given a c-section.

So how can a woman avoid a c-section in the first place? Knowledge is power. Here is a list of Five Essential Questions to ask your care provider. My Gentle Birthing Blog also has a list of the risks with cesarean birth as well as a list that might help you avoid having your first c-section.

On Live Your Ideal Life guest blogger Pamela Candelaria who writes over at Natural Birth for Normal Women discusses the risks of a c-section as described on a typical consent form and says, “what isn’t on the form may be surprising.”

Heather of A Mama’s Blog provides a lot of information about The Reality of C-sections.

And Breastfeeding Moms Unite posted What to Expect of Your Body after a C-section.

Bellies and Babies has a great round up of posts in honor of Cesarean Awareness Month.

There is one victory worth celebrating regarding Cesarean birth and women’s health in general. Thanks to the Health Care Reform, c-sections, giving birth and domestic violence can no longer be considered pre-existing conditions and used to deny insurance coverage. It’s a step in the right direction, but so much more needs to be done to lower the c-section rates and allow women access to VBACs, so that they don’t have to travel 350 miles just to have a vaginal birth. And that’s why an entire month is needed to raise awareness about cesarean sections.

Additional resources:

Photo credit: Flickr – Grendellion

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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How will I know?

This past month I went digging around underneath my bathroom sink searching for something I haven’t needed in a long time. A pregnancy test. Although it was not something I was planning, I had this feeling deep down that I could be pregnant and knew that technically it was a possibility. Was I hopeful that I was pregnant? Was I worried? Was I scared? Definitely a little bit of all three.

As I waited for the line(s) on the test* to appear and my future to be revealed, my mind raced with possibilities. I imagined another home birth. I imagined Ava as a proud big sister again and Julian as a big brother for the first time and my heart swelled. I imagined another baby to love and nurture. I wondered how the baby would change the dynamics of our family. I pictured many sleepless nights and years more of cloth diapers. I thought about my health – both physical and mental – and wondered how I would do with another pregnancy. I thought about what my new psychiatrist recently said to me about the importance of finding time for myself and not taking on anything new right now. I wondered if my anxiety would get worse if I was pregnant and if I would need to go off my medication or increase my dose. I thought about how we plan to put our house on the market in the spring and all that we need to do in preparation. And I thought about how my life seems pretty darn great (and full) right now with just my two amazing kiddos.

The pregnancy tests (yes, I found more than one under my bathroom sink) were all negative and, low and behold, my cycle started. The future, for now, has been revealed. I am not pregnant. I will repeat, I am NOT pregnant. See?

I’m a little bit disappointed, but I also feel peaceful about it.

All of this got me wondering, how do you know when your family is complete? I don’t really know. I have thought about the “v” word – vasectomy – and have mixed feelings about it. I know it is technically reversible, but it seems so final and we’d likely only go that route when we are totally sure we’re done. Am I ready to close that door just yet? I don’t think so. I could still see us with one more, just not right now.

For now I think we’ll be a little more careful. At this point in time I don’t think a pregnancy would be the best thing for me, for us. That’s not to say I’m ruling out having another baby in the future, but for right now, as I continue to focus on my mental health and on my marriage, I think we’ll stick with these two wonderful kiddos we already have. And we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

* I think it’s kind of funny that all of the pregnancy tests under my sink were actually expired, so who knows how accurate they were. But I got my period so there’s no question anymore anyway. :P

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