As things go, we’re pretty lucky in the UK. We have excellent maternity services; free at the point of delivery (literally)! It sometimes feels ungrateful to be complaining about how we are routinely over-medicalised as bigger women when we are in such a fortunate position compared with some women in other parts of the world.
Yet in the medicalisation stakes, (or should that be medicalization?) the USA beats us hands down. Bigger mums there are routinely pushed into having caesareans without a backward glance.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes caesareans are necessary, really necessary, but the trouble is that in the temptation to avoid the ‘what if’ scenarios and the risk of uncertainty, can lead some medical professionals so see c-sections as a nice, reliable, predictable solution to that messy, noisy, unpredictable childbearing business.
It happens here in the UK too. Someone I know; an educated, professional woman, who had all her children by elective caesarean section, despite having no medical reason for them – just a high BMI, did so because she was advised that the most dangerous birth was an emergency c-section – and that the only way to guarantee not having an emergency c-section is to have an elective c-section instead. So that’s what she did.
Any birth experience is amazing and awe inspiring, but with my fluffy natural-birth rose-tinted spectacles on, I just can’t imagine she’d have had the same sense of euphoria, empowerment, and personal satisfaction that comes from the achievement of pushing a 7lb+ melon out of your nether regions. It helps to have great support, but when push comes to shove (literally), only you can do it. And having completed that amazing task, the feeling is AWESOME!
Being sliced and diced and handed your baby by someone in a green gown while you’re flat on your back and likely to stay that way for a few days just isn’t the same. Is it?
Or is it?
What would I know? I’ve never gone for the sunroof option. And does it matter anyway?
But the increased incidence of caesarean sections in bigger women saddens me.
Because studies have shown that the increased rate of c-section may just be a symptom of how labours are managed differently in bigger women.
Higher caesarean section rates in women with higher body mass index: are we managing labour differently? (254.3 KiB)
Because my own births were amazing, beautiful, wonderful experiences. I kid you not. After them I felt invincible, like I literally could conquer the world and achieve anything. Single handed. With just a fondue fork, if necessary.
Because despite all the fear-fodder about being overweight and the potential consequences that might bring, they turned out to be just that – fear-fodder and nothing more. After my hospital birth (my first) I wanted to walk home! Until my husband pointed out that I’d just been awake for 24 hours straight, probably ought to get some rest, and that it was probably just the hormones talking… Probably just as well that my second birth was at home.
I guess it’s personal choice at the end of the day, and my friend was glad to be able to have the choice of having a doctor deliver her babies for her. Her decision was fully informed, and while I would not have made it, it was right for her.
But I wonder how well informed we bigger women in general are of the risks of caesarean section. On some of the blogs I frequent, some women are all to keen to use their BMI status as leverage to request a c-section, despite the fact that they have no evidenced medical need for one. Why? Because they’re scared of childbirth? Have lost faith in their bodies? Have more faith in the doctors? See celebs having caesareans as the norm? See it as an easier/quicker option? Are worried about the pain of childbirth? Are unaware of the pain of a major op? I have no idea. I just want to yell loudly NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! But each to their own.
However, on the topic of risk, Well-Rounded Mama, which is a great US site I used to refer to when I was pregnant, has just published a great post on the complications of wound healing in bigger mums. It’s a well known risk. Yet I’m not sure how often it’s brought up by medical professionals in c-section discussions, and how aware people are of it or any of the potential complications of caesareans.
All the more reason to stick to natural interventions like birth pools and massage, if you ask me, and keep the knives for carving pumpkins.