Did you choose a Cesarean section for a non-medical reason?

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By: SantaRosa OLD SKOOLCC BY 2.0
My wife and I are beginning the prep work for our anonymous donor assisted baby-making plans. I will be carrying our baby, but I am petrified of labor and vaginal birth. I've read all of the C-section posts on Offbeat Families so far, and they've been very helpful and gorgeous.

I wonder: are there any offbeat families who opted for a C-section out of desire and not for a medical reason?

If so — why did you do it, and were your family members and medical professionals supportive of this decision? — Jules

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  1. I'm in the same situation as you, first (and probably last, given my age) baby, and very afraid of the pain and discomfort, my body doing things it never has done before. The only person I know of who chose caesarian for non-medical reasons is Yoko Ono. She had a c-section to ensure that Sean was born on John Lennon's birthday.

    Because of my fear, I wasn't really taking birth prep seriously, letting my missus do the work of understanding all of the issues. But I hate going into any situation without doing a lot of research. So, after reading a lot of birth stories here and elsewhere, I have decided to actively prepare for a natural childbirth in a birth center. Facing that head on is helping me deal with the fear. And I am reminding myself that pain is transitory and I've successfully weathered plenty of discomfort in my life. I think I can do it, and if it's too much, I'll have a great team help me choose when to medicate or surgically deliver.

    Whatever you end up doing, I hope you are able to learn more about how strong and persevering you are so you can lay your fear to rest for good. Congratulations on your coming baby.

    ps. I am reading Natural Hospital Birth by Gabriel. It is helping.

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  2. I want to start out by saying you are free to choose any kind of birth experience you want, so don't take any judgment from my comment.

    I had a vaginal birth with my daughter and it was fantastic. I didn't tear because I had an amazing doctor who helped navigate the baby out. I had a great hospital staff who administered a perfect epidural that left me numbed but still able to feel enough to push.

    My friend had a c-section and she was in pain for months, had stitches across her abdomen, couldn't care for her own baby for the first week or so, and her incision got infected.

    That's not to say all c-sections or all vaginal births are the same. There is also something called a gentle c-section, which is where you have a c-section but they try really hard to mimic a natural birth, i.e. skin-to-skin contact right away, etc.

    Any way that produces a healthy baby and mom is okay by me. Just don't choose a C-Section because you think it is somehow less painful or less scary than vaginal birth. You're getting your abdomen cut open–as in, major surgery. And there is recovery time and stitches and the risk of infection. And it hurts. The only difference is it hurts after instead of during.

    Regardless of that, though, your labor is your choice. My best advice is this:

    Find great, supportive people and do lots of research. Weigh your options carefully. And know that whatever you choose, you CAN do this. It's the most natural thing in the world and one of the greatest. I'd love to give birth again. I loved it that much. And I hope you do, too.

    Best of luck in your decision and in your pregnancy. Wishing you a happy, healthy baby and the perfect birth experience of your choice!

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  3. I had (2) C-sections… but for medical reasons (Im only 4'8" and both babies were normal size)… I just want you to be aware that yes, the pain of a c-section delivery is almost nil (besides the spinal which does hurt for a minute), but the recovery is so, so much faster and less painful with a regular birth.

    It took me 4 days in the hospital with both, and then it was 1-2 weeks afterwards that I wasnt taking pain meds around the clock – before I was semi-back to normal… it also made it alot harder to nurse (b/c I couldnt put weight on my stomach), and I couldnt even lean over to pick up the babies for about a week… recovery was probably the worst pain Ive ever felt…. and I know women who have had a vaginal birth and were back to normal, running around, the next day…

    oh, also, i wasnt able to hold or nurse either of my babies right after I had them either – I had to go to recovery and wait there 1-2 hours until I could feel my legs again and then I got to see my babies

    So yes, the pain of delivery is alot less, but the recovery can be way worse (and you have a scar)

    But then again, no one can really predict child birth, I guess… and its different for everyone… good luck!

    1 agrees
  4. I am 27 weeks pregnant with my second child and have an elective cesarean scheduled for a week before my due date.

    My daughter was born in 2008. After my water broke with her we were forced to induce labor with Pitocin because I was not dilated at all! After 42 hours of extreme labor I still was not dilated enough to push and the attending OB took me in for an emergency C-section. There was meconium in the womb and both my daughter and I had to be put on a heavy round of antibiotics after she was born. Needless to say, the last thing I want is a re-hash of these events.

    So, this time around I have a date and a time set for my son's birth and I couldn't be happier. My OB was perfectly fine with my decision and totally supportive. I was all about having a natural birth the first time around, but now I know my body is not going to cooperate I'm taking the more reliable route. Hope this helps!

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    • Jennifer, this comment is not directed at you because you sound like you are happy with your plan, and more power to you for that. But to others who are making decisions: a rough first birth does not guarantee the same the next time around.

      My first was induced and came after 40 hours of labor, Pitocin, and five hours of pushing due to an overstrong epidural that I finally accepted after the first 24 hours of laboring with no pain meds. I felt like I had been hit by a train in my lady parts afterwards, but I still recovered enough to attend a wedding within four days. (I was terrified of the pain for the next time)

      With my second, my water broke in the middle of the night a month before my due date, so I had to be induced again. After only four hours of labor and 3-4 pushes, my little son came shooting out of there like a cannonball! I didn't take any pain meds at all for that birth, despite the Pitocin, and though it was intense during, pushing was so much easier without the epidural! I was feeling great the next day.

      So you never know, and every birth is different. If I decide to have a third, I think I will try one last time for the beautiful unmedicated birth center birth of my dreams, now that I know I can do it!

      1 agrees
  5. I am 38 weeks pregnant and facing a potential c-section if our breech babe doesn't turn. I'm very sad and scared about this so I totally relate to your fears about birth (even though we may want different outcomes, fear is fear!).

    With all due respect, I'd just caution you against thinking you can avoid pain by having a c-section. I am a graduate nurse (and hopefully a registered nurse–just took my boards today!) and have assisted at several c-sections. They are no picnic. And although you don't FEEL like you're being cut open, they are not sensation-free events. Mothers have described crushing pressure on their chests during c-sections. They can feel pressure and tugging that is quite alarming because the baby is not just cut out and gently removed–layers of tissue need to cut and pushed apart, often by two providers at once (wow, those OB/GYNs are WORKING during c-sections. It's brute force!). Mothers can have severe pain in the shoulder as air travels into your body from your open abdomen (this is normal and harmless but still painful and often something patients are not warned about). You have a foley catheter in your urethra for 12 hours after surgery and need to mobilize quickly and do deep breathing and coughing exercises to prevent pulmonary embolism (clots traveling to your lungs–potentially fatal). Pain after surgery seems to run the gamut from totally manageable to very severe (everyone is different). And, of course, you're at a minimally increased risk for infection and future fertility and pregnancy complications compared to vaginal delivery and face a period of recovering from major abdominal surgery while caring for a newborn. Finally, you're in the hospital for longer, can have some delays in getting breastfeeding going (although it's still totally possible and every baby is different–I've seen vaginal babes have problems and c-section babes have none) and also, consider if insurance will cover a truly elective cesction as they are more expensive than vaginals and insurance cranks down when it comes to costs.

    Here's a blog that talks extensively about csections in a helpful, nonjudgemental way: http://adventuresindiapering.blogspot.com/2009/05/c-section-information.html

    I would recommend investigating further about vaginal delivery with epidurals and other pain management strategies. Also, hiring an experienced doula with csection and epidural and hospital birth experience would be wonderful. I also think it would be a great idea to talk to someone–professional or just a really supportive, great listener who will support your decisions–about what's behind your fears, what they mean not just about birth but about becoming a parent. I think you have quite a few options between all-out crunchy zero drugs vaginal birth at home and elective c-section. I think it's also great to learn about all of your options because–as I am really learning now–we ultimately have little control over pregnancy and birth and may need to experience things we never thought we could. Best of luck!

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      • I just read it, Ariel! Thank you so much for sharing your story. It made me feel better. We're trying a version tomorrow but you know, this kid's going to do what they are going to do! Lord knows I was not cooperative growing up. 🙂 THANK YOU for helping me feel better.

    • Joselle, thank you so much for laying it all out for me the way you did! Very helpful 🙂

      I know it's going to be painful either way and I am totally ok (albeit scared out of my mind) with that.

    • I found someone that does cranial scaral on the baby to position it. Also I've heard of success with acupuncture turning the baby. If it we're me i would try anything reasonable to turn the baby.

      1 agrees
    • My friend, a chiropractor, used a techique to turn our baby. It's worth consdering.

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    • Joselle – I just wanted to give you a little internet solidarity. I had a breech baby who never turned (and I tried everything – chiropractor, acupuncture, external version, etc.) and had a c-section that I really was hoping to avoid. My birth story is here if you are looking for more to read (I know I was craving positive c-section stories when I was at your stage): http://somewhatbookish.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/frances-a-birth-story/.

      I have to say, being even further out at this point, I feel even more positively about my c-section experience and sure that even though it wasn't the birth I originally wanted, that it was the right birth for me and baby in that situation.

      I hope all goes well!

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  6. I am in the process of trying to find out whether I can get an elective C-section if I feel I need one. I am choosing it because I have bi-polar disorder. I do not medicate myself even before pregnancy, so that's not the issue. I have done some reading and speaking to others who have been in my situation and while it's not very common, the intense stress of labor can, sometimes, trigger acute mania in some women. The idea of becoming manic in the middle of labor scares me silly (since it can lead to some seriously questionable behavior). I tried to get into Hypnobabies and all the natural stress-relievers and honestly? They didn't work for me because they largely can't address the variables that trigger stress in me. At least with c-sections, there's less "unknowns" and more variables can be controlled for. Though honestly, the recovery from one scares me too!

    My husband supports me either way. He has seen me manic in the past and gets how scary the experience can be (for the sufferer and those around them). He will go for anything that tries to prevent that. My doctor largely supports it too, though she has made it clear that she is only doing so because of my mental health history – she normally opposes elective c-sections.

    Overall, I still haven't decided what to do. I know that if I do try vaginal birth, I will be consuming every pharmaceutical that comes my way, to minimize the potential triggers. I'd say to you: do what you have to do. You don't owe anybody but yourself a particular birth. And don't let anybody tell you that mental distress or suffering isn't a real medical need – because it is. If you know that a c-section will reduce your anxiety or fear and that you are prepared to deal with the recovery, I say go for it. Knowledge is power, so I'd say that if you do elect to do it, read all you can. be prepared for coming home. I think you'll be fine!

    1 agrees
    • NAre you going to per treat with physco therapy? Or try placenta encapsulation for after? There are a lot of hormone swing through the whole first year.

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  7. My sister-in-law opted for a cesarean with her two children for exactly the same reasons. She recovered quickly after each. After the second, she actually felt almost recovered after just a few weeks. She never experienced any contractions or labor. As far as I know, everyone in our family was supportive. I didn't find it strange at all and really I felt it was none of my business either way, as with any choice someone makes about their own birthing experience. I didn't hear of any trouble she faced with her doctors over her choice. The only reason I wouldn't elect to have a cesarean is my fear of the pain during recovery time (I feel like it would be worse than the pain of labor), but certainly it is worth it to many women. And, as I near my due date, I remind myself often (especially in the middle of the night!) that either way it will be over in a short time and everything will work out fine whatever happens. Thank god for modern medicine!

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  8. I think everyone should chose the birth that's best for them as long as they know what they're getting when they chose it!

    My best friend chose an elective c-section for the same reasons as you and loved it. She healed fast and without problems. However, she was in a mild amount of pain for a few weeks after the procedure.

    I had about as much fear of a c-section as she did a vaginal birth. My vaginal birth was fairly traumatic, with fetal monitors that wouldn't stay on, a horrible doula, doctors trying to test me for ridiculous things and ended up with my baby getting stuck on the way out (but only for 30 seconds or so).

    There's something appealing about not going through 26 hours of intense pain and invasive hands, etc. But the healing from my vaginal birth was so easy. I don't think I was in much pain at all.

    Pros and cons seem to be fairly equal to me.

    1 agrees
  9. I had a c-section — not exactly for non-medical reasons (breech baby, we tried SO hard to get him to turn, and there are very few providers who will deliver a breech vaginally anymore). I had a very easy recovery. My understanding, and from the others I know that had c-sections, having a scheduled surgery vs. an emergency surgery, particularly after hours of labor, are two very different events. So, when people say they had a difficult recovery, my guess is that most of them probably had an emergency c-section, and were likely recovering from both that and hours/days of labor. Anyway, I very much wanted the experience of giving birth vaginally, but can't really fault the scheduled c-section — for me it was quick & painless!

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    • I had two frank breech babies. The first bubba was an undiagnosed breech until I went to 42 weeks. A scan showed he was breech and due to a lack of support for a natural birth (we had planned a midwife led home birth, but our province doesn't allow untested breech births) we had to have a planned c-section. It was traumatic, awful and the recovery was slow. My second bubba was also breech. We tried everything (and I mean everything!) to turn her. We booked a c-section for summer solstice, but I went into labour on the 17th. She was born on the 18th as an emergency c-section. It was a completely different experience, quieter, calmer, with a faster recovery. With the first section we had issues and related issues after (breastfeeding, bonding, depression), with the second we had little to no issues – she even latched on the boob whilst I was still on the operating table! For us, the planned section was terrible, the emergency section much easier. I think everyone is different. Solidarity to all the breech Mamas out there! x

  10. It is your prerogative to have the kind of birth experience you want – and yes, that includes a C-section! You seem like you've done your research, and you know both the risks and rewards of vaginal and Cesarian birth. I think it's important for all of us to remember that the outcome of labor (healthy baby, healthy mom!) trumps the fetishization of the birth experience. And I'm saying this as someone who labored in a tub with no drugs and gave birth vaginally – it really is UP TO YOU AND YOUR PARTNER.

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  11. I had a planned c-section for medical reasons. My recovery was much easier than any of the other women I know who have had them. Anecdotal, but most of them still have some pain from their scar, up to 2 years later.

    If you have options for which hospital you deliver at, I'd suggest you research what they do *after* the delivery – can you breastfeed right away? Does the baby stay with you in the recovery room? Can you do skin-to-skin contact in the OR? I'm in a small town, and they don't do those things on a regular basis.

    One other thing – my c-section was planned, but I was hesitant and sad to have it. Part of the reason, I realized later, was that there was no transition period as there would have been with hours of labor. I wish that I had thought of the night before the surgery as being in early labor and done the things then I'd expected to do while laboring. It may not pertain to you if you're choosing a c-section gladly, but it might be worth thinking about.

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  12. In May last year I gave birth to my son by Elective Cesarean. In my experience, it is your body and you should be able to decide how you want to give birth. It does not make you any less of a woman. It's empowering taking charge of a situation like this, and regarless of how you give birth you will feel accomplished and should be proud of yourself. Everybody supported my decision (well to my face anyway) and when asked by others if I was scared about my Cesarean I could tell them, with absolute honesty that no, I wasn't. It was exactly how I wanted it to be.

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  13. Something I totally spaced on when this question was sent in: a few months ago someone sent me a copy of Choosing Cesarean: A Natural Birth Plan. It's been sitting on the book shelf gathering dust because I don't think I'll ever need it. I'm going to send an email to see if you want it, Jules, but also wanted to mention it in this thread in case other people think the book might be helpful.

    1 agrees
  14. I had a medical c-section (baby that turned during labor) with my first child, and just had a relatively easy vaginal home birth a week ago with second. Here are my thoughts:

    How much you trust your caregivers (midwife, OB, whatever!) and how comfortable you are in the setting where you give birth is CRUCIAL. If that means a cesarean in a hospital with doctors you deeply trust, that is almost certainly going to be less traumatic than being deeply afraid with doctors you don't trust trying for a "natural" labor.

    Like others above, I had a long and painful recovery period from the cesarean and a comparatively cake-walk-like recovery from the vaginal birth. But that trade-off may very well be worth it for you, and I'm sure some of the pain of recovery is lessened when you plan very well for it in advance with lots of support and help at home. So as long as you're taking into account the recovery time as well as the actual procedure/labor pain, you should choose what you are comfortable and feel safe with!

    1 agrees
  15. As others have said, if you've done the research and feel comfortable with it, you should have the birth you want.
    With that said though, if your primary reason for scheduling a c-section is to avoid pain, I'll just say that my (unplanned) c-section was definitely not pain free. They say it just feels like pulling when they take the baby out, but to me, it was quite painful (like they were pulling out my belly button with a pair of pliers) and I had to breathe through it the entire time. It was more painful than the 24 hours of unmedicated labor I had experienced prior to the surgery. Afterwards, I recovered quickly, but recovering from a c-section quickly, say two weeks until you can move around OK, still means two weeks where you can't lean over and pick up your baby, two weeks where getting out of bed requires a partner, two weeks where every little thing is made incredibly more difficult. And that's not even mentioning how it makes breastfeeding and the initial bonding period more difficult in many cases. Honestly, it was a huge pain in the ass and while I haven't experienced a vaginal delivery, I do feel like it would have been so much easier. I guess this is to say that there's just no easy way to get that baby out of you.

    1 agrees
  16. You have every right to pick the birth that is right for you and your baby, but I just want to say that you absolutely can give birth vaginally. I was TERRIFIED of birth my whole pregnancy, especially towards the end. I have vulvodynia, where sex is painful, so I thought there was no way on earth a human being could fit through my vagina. But guess what, it totally could. I gave birth at home with no drugs and mostly just with my husband there. It was so hard but I did it. And it was such a gift after to have our whole family in bed, home, alert and not drugged.

    Make whatever choice works for you, I just enourage you not to make it out of fear.

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  17. "We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful. It's that women are strong." – Laura Stavoe Harm.

    I have birthed 4 children. 1st one by C-section, 2nd was highly medicated vaginal delivery, and the last 2 were both natural, vaginal births. I feel as if I've seen (and felt) it all. The recovery from a c-section is NOT easy. It takes days to be able to even walk upright. With my medicated v-bac recovery was much easier. I was able to get up and take a shower the next day. My natural vbacs were by far the easiest recovery. I was able to get up and shower, walk around, and felt great within an hour after birth. The question you have to ask yourself is do you want to do the hard work before the baby is born (vaginal birth) or after the baby is born (c-section). There is pain and difficulty whichever you choose. Just keep in mind that a c-section is major surgery and is a lot riskier than natural birth.

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    • Thanks for sharing your experiences here, Dawn – I just wanted to point out, though, that this site normally uses "unmedicated birth" rather than "natural".

      I think that's really important on a thread like this, where people are potentially feeling sensitive.

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        • It really doesn't make sense to me. I don't mean any disrespect but "natural" is exactly what an "unmedicated" birth is.

          nat·u·ral
          /ˈnaCHərəl/
          Adjective
          "Existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind."

          I worked really hard and made it a goal to have a completely "natural" birth. That doesn't mean that birth by any other way is any less special or wonderful. My c-section was just as special but I earned the term "natural" birth and don't like calling it anything else. Do others really feel offended by the term "natural birth"?

          2 agree
          • So, I'm totally cool with talking about this, especially since I wrote the post. At the time, my son was about to turn two, and I had had SO MANY conversations with friends and family member who have given birth about the different ways birth is framed. I had read hundreds of comments on this website about how people felt about the way birth is discussed, and I had read countless websites that either celebrated the idea of natural birth or were filled with sorrowful tales of regret about NOT achieving a natural birth.

            Personally, the birth of my son was FILLED with all kinds of twists and turns I didn't anticipate. He was born two months early, a peaceful and unmedicated water birth was impossible, he spent a month in the NICU, and so on. It took me a while to bend my head around the way things so dramatically and unpredictably changed, but at the end of the day I was still at peace with his birth because he was born. Afterward, I learned that I was somewhat lucky that this was my perspective — many people mourn the loss of the birth they planned, and it's a VERY real period of mourning.

            At the point that the post was written, I had been working at Offbeat Families (then Mama) for nearly a year. I was infinitely more immersed and connected with the community here then when I started, and had found an amazing community of parents in my offline life. So many of our conversations were about this idea of a "natural" vs "unnatural birth" and one night it just hit me: anyway a baby leaves your body is natural — or at least it is to me.

            I KNOW there are a ton of places online that will celebrate natural births in the sense that you mean — and I think that's totally fine and awesome, because there are plenty of communities online and offline that need and want that. It became important to Ariel and I that Offbeat Families be as inclusive as it can be, and one way we could do that was by changing the way we speak about birth. I don't know if my somewhat rambly explanation helps or not, but it's ultimately the decision we came to: it's a distinction in language that we both like, one we use in our day to day lives when speaking about birth, and one that we appreciate having on the site. The use of "unmedicated" isn't because people ever said they were offended by the word "natural" it's just the way we choose to speak about birth here.

            Ariel references this post frequently, but ultimately this website can't be everything to everyone. This is the word we choose to use on this website, and it seems to be something the majority of our readers and visitors appreciate and are happy for, so it's what we're sticking with. 🙂

            1 agrees
  18. Most of the things I would have said are covered, so I'll just mention one thing. It has to do with vanity. I really didn't like the way my scar made my belly look. I almost got back to having a flat tummy after my cesarean, but there is always, a dent where my scar is, and it kind of puffs out above and below the scar. No one can really tell because my clothes cover it well, but that's partly because I don't have too much extra body fat. Also, they really have to stretch and pull your abs apart, so that doesn't help with appearance either.

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  19. This is absolutely your choice and its good that you are researching before hand. Noone seems to have mentioned it yet, but during my c-section (emergency-cord around my daughters neck) i had a weird reaction to the spinal and was able to actually feel the incision being made. They had medicated me so fully that i was given the choice to suck it up so my partner could stay in the room or i could be knocked out and my husband would have to leave the room and miss the birth of our child. I couldnt let him miss that moment, but believe me that is a very horrible feeling. Yes there is also the pressure on your chest and a lot of physical work from the doctors. Recovery is rough, be prepared to need help sitting to use the bathroom as well (that part always made me the least happy 🙂 ). Its ultimately up to what makes you happy just remember that a million things could change to make it more uncomfortable than you anticipated.

  20. you might want to check in with your care provider about restrictions on inducing/c-sections before 39 weeks. i know that all of the hospitals in the portland area have come to an agreement to not induce or perform c-sections before 39 weeks because time and time again, babies taken out too early are having health complications because they weren't quite ready to be on the outside. you don't say anything about wanting to have and early delivery, but i thought i'd throw this out there so you have some more facts under your belt in making this decision. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/08/why-hospitals-in-portland-are-banning-early-births/243499/

    i had an emergency c-section and a vbac delivery and, in my experience, the vbac recovery was much easier. i was much more present in the early weeks of my second child's life. i needed nothing more than ibuprofen for pain relief after vaginal birth whereas i was on morphine and then vicodin after the c-section delivery. i assume that having labored all day prior to finally having surgery had some to do with the painful recovery, but i can't know for certain.

    best advice is to read and research a lot. read birth stories, check out http://www.theunnecesarean.com , watch videos, check out the book "natural hospital birth" as someone else suggested.

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  21. This is slightly different – the topic is about choosing a repeat c-section or a vaginal birth after c-section – but I really like the approach and you might find it useful.

    "You really don't need to make this decision NOW, it's perfectly normal to feel ambivalent about the choice, and there's NOTHING WRONG with considering both choices, or even with deciding not to decide for a while. Sometimes it's great just to be pregnant for a while without having to make any choices.

    Then, when you are ready, take a few weeks and "try on" each choice. It's not enough to try them on for a couple of hours or days; it's really more optimal to work through this by trying them on for longer periods. That way you get past the surface reactions and emotions and get deeper about what your concerns are with each choice."

    http://www.theunnecesarean.com/blog/2011/6/5/vbac-vs-repeat-cesarean-try-on-both-choices.html

  22. I completely understand what you are going through! I was thinking the same thing when I was pregnant with my son last year. My whole issue was that I wanted to have a baby, I just didn't want to HAVE the baby. After weighing both options, I went ahead and agreed to the induction, whereas I requested an epidural at only a centimeter and a half into it. Yep, wasn't trying to win any awards there. But seriously who cares?!?! My son was born perfectly healthy via vaginal delivery, and I was the happy pain-free mama. We went home together the next morning with my discomfort being so minimal, I only needed over the counter ibuprofen to manage it.
    Overall I was super happy I went with the vaginal delivery as my "down time" afterward was pretty much nonexistent. Realistically I could have physically gone back to work in a few days (though I was lucky enough to take 8 months off). So consider my story when deciding. Either way you go, it's the right choice.

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  23. I would say that while you still have time, prepare for normal birth with emphasis on learning about your pain relief options. And make sure you have a sensitive and compassionate care provider who will look at you as a person, not an inconvenience. c-sections are not pain free and not an easy way out at all. I had a emergency c-section and while I thought I won't mind at all which way my baby will be born as long as we're both healthy…When it actually came to it, I minded big time! Nothing quite prepared me for the sensation of baby being pulled out of my abdomen. It felt very wrong and for some reason…violating. Not saying that it is everyone's experience, but this happens too. Also recovery is no picnic and I ended up getting infection in the wound TWICE, which made me feel like I had really bad flu both times and had to take buckets of antibiotics. I had flashbacks about the birth a year later and it took counselling to start bonding with my baby ( we were separated after birth and they "forgot" to tell me that the child was actually fine!).
    I'm not trying to scare you or anything, some people have fantastic c-section experiences and horrible normal births. However, I do believe that you should give yourself a chance at the best case scenario 🙂 I mean, even the best ever c-sec is a major abdominal surgery. Uncomplicated normal birth (you don't have to go drug-free if you don't want to!) is much easier on the body. I felt completely destroyed and AFTER the fact turned out it's not that uncommon, while during antenatal classes we were told that c-sec is a super straightforward thing with hardly any side effects.
    Sorry this is so long..you can really just sum this up as do your research on all your options, get a good care provider and think positive. You deserve a birth you look back on fondly, not a horror story, whichever way your baby will be born 🙂

    PS: on the side note, my c-sec and crappy recovery did not stop me from exclusive breastfeeding (don't know if you care, but just in case it's something you care about).

    3 agree
    • Tiny semantics issue: can we call it "vaginal birth" instead of "normal birth"?

      18 agree
  24. Also,make sure you talk to your medical provider. Some OBs won't do elective C-sections if there's not a compelling reason.

  25. I ultimately didn't get to have the birth I wanted, but I did get to have the right birth for me and my son. Due to his medical condition, I was essentially forced into an induced vaginal delivery in a very, very medical-feeling hospital environment. I wanted a midwife-assisted, self-directed, intervention-free birth in a birthing center, but ended up with upwards of a dozen people staring down my lady parts to watch my son pop out. I still did it somewhat on my own terms: no meds, induction through breast pumping, and no other interventions beyond having my water broken at what would have been an entirely appropriate time anyhow. I still sometimes wish I had a c-section, though, just to have avoided all the stress surrounding a birth that doctors felt was "out of their control."

    In the beginning, I was given the choice of attempting a vaginal delivery, but my doctors and my son's future caregivers really, REALLY wanted me to have a c-section so they could schedule treatment for my son immediately after his birth. I did my research, talked with my husband and my doctors, and was more or less okay with the plan…until I found out how my local hospital handled c-section. Their procedures and protocols for patient care – ranging from only allowing my husband to be in the operating room for a limited amount of time to essentially requiring that I don't attempt breastfeeding immediately – were appalling to both of us. If I had been near a different hospital, I might have avoided the stress and pressure of an induction (even if it was ultimately successful and easy). I know the physical recovery would have been rougher with a c-section – I was walking something like three hours after giving birth, albeit slowly – but emotionally, I might have felt like everything was somehow more stable if I had been able to say "yup, baby at 8AM," rather than gambling that I would give birth quickly and on the right day.

    1 agrees
  26. Fear is the real enemy. The more fear, the more pain, no matter what kind of birth you have.

    I spent my whole life fearing birth. Then when I was pregnant I worked through that fear (mostly by reading Ina May Gaskin's books), and I ended up having an incredible drug-free birth. I literally turned to my husband while pushing and said "you know, its not that bad!"
    i am not that badass. its just that birth can be really amazing, and putting fear aside is the first step to getting there.

    9 agree
  27. I had both. If I was to compare pain, the vaginal birth had the most intense sensation of pain, but the intensity could be counted in minutes. The c-section was slightly less of an intense pain, but was felt longer. I had trouble holding and manipulating the baby in my arms and had difficulty caring for myself. If you have a lot of family available to you, it will be easier during c-section recovery. Things that may be difficult after a c-section- 1. driving a car (you just can't press hard with a weak abdomen)
    2. lifting the baby, though setting the baby down was hardest for me, she kind of fell from my arms for the first few weeks
    3. the first bowel movement after (surgery and hospitalization often have a pleasant constipation effect that can cause a scar ripping fear the first time you have a bm after).

    I don't think there is anyway to avoid all pain and you just have to do what is right for you. Eventually, whatever way you choose, you will heal and no longer be in pain. And you will have a baby to enjoy! Congrats and good luck!

    Also, look into a doula, even for a c-section. Also, a postpartum doula would be great for any kind of recovery for additional support

    2 agree
  28. Almost 19 hours of labor with no progress and decreasing heartbeats for my son resulted in an emergency c-section. The hospital follows the "once a c-section, always a c-section" rule, so my 2nd one was more planned. His movements decreased 4 days before the scheduled date, so the c-section was moved up. Here's how I would compare my surgeries:

    First one: I became violently ill to the epidural and spent most of the time vomiting or dry heaving. During the procedure, I couldn't move anything on my body and missed seeing my son for the first time until many hours later when I finally came back. The recovery…I was up and moving around like normal 2 days after. I healed very fast and needed no pain meds.

    Second one: The minute they gave me the spinal, I fell ill again but this time I was prepared and used focusing techniques to stay alert and not let the sickness overtake me. Recovery time in the hospital after the procedure took a little while. Recovery time at home seemed more painful (like moderate-to-severe period cramps) and lasted 2 weeks, but again, no major problems with healing.

    I believe it ultimately comes down to what YOU believe you can handle. We are stronger than we think, but we all have limits. The labor I did experience, I know I would not be able to effectively push and therefore I'm kind of thankful I had the c-section. But that's only from my experience.

    Keep doing your research and you will find the perfect answer that fits you.

    1 agrees
  29. If you decide to have an elective Cesarean birth, you are in a great position to prepare appropriately for it. People who have emergency Cesareans are often blindsided — they haven't thought about what aftercare might be like, and now they're having to come up with it in the middle of simultaneously adjusting to having a newborn.

    A few ideas:
    1) Find providers you trust. Regardless of how the baby comes out, this is so important and goes such a long way towards having a positive experience.

    2) Consider hiring a doula who is experienced in Cesarean births. The same way Ariel was able to have an awesome Cesarean because of her mother's experience as a midwife, a good doula knows what your options are and how best to negotiate with the hospital staff. When you're doing interviews, ask specifically about these things.

    3) Consider postpartum physical therapy. Depending on where you live, there may be people who specialize in this. For all other major abdominal surgeries, physical therapy is a routine part of recovery. Why it isn't for Cesareans is beyond me, but if you're choosing one, you can plan for it.

    4) Consider taking a breastfeeding class or talking to a lactation consultant before you give birth, if breastfeeding is in your plan. They can help you make a post-Cesarean breastfeeding plan.

    If, along the way, any of your providers give you shit about your decision, it's okay to fire them and find someone else.

    Good luck with your search!

    1 agrees
  30. This is NOT to judge anybody for chosing what's right for them (and definitely NOT to devalue in any way the incredible invention that is a medically necessary c-section (and I count mental concern for the mother under medical necessities), but something I haven't seen in this discussion yet is the experience of the baby.

    There are recent findings that show that C-Section-Babies are more likely to get allergies and asthma, and be overweight and/or get diabetes later in life.

    As always with statistics, they're just that STATISTICS. Nobody gets 5 percent asthma, but they CAN be useful.

    So, I guess I just wanted to point this out, because I hadn't seen this datapoint (which is obviously just one of many) in this discussion yet.

    3 agree
  31. I had a C-section for no reason other than I wanted one! First (and only, so far) birth for me.

    Honestly, I just had no interest in pushing a baby out of my ladybits. I fluctuated for a while between a vaginal birth (likely medicated) or a c-section, and in the end I decided that I'd rather just do the c-section.

    I have no regrets! I have a close friend who has had two kids vaginally (medicated, I think), and she says sometimes that she wishes she'd done the same because I seemed to bounce back so much more quickly (and didn't have as many post-birth issues). I didn't have to deal with tearing, or sore bits, or anything like that. My incision area was of course a little sore for a bit, but honestly it never really bothered me all that much. I took painkillers when it started to hurt some, and it was fine. Kiddo was born super healthy, and I bounced back pretty quickly too.

    As far as how other folks took it: I was in between doctors when we found out I was pregnant, and I didn't have a very close connection to the doctor I ended up with. I honestly didn't like my main doctor at all, but her PA was amazing and totally made the crappy doctor worth it. She was supportive of whatever choice I made for myself (while my actual doctor was very hands-off and didn't seem to care one way or another). I don't think my family even really asked about it, but if it did come up, I just explained that I had no desire to push out a kiddo! Both my family and my husband's family are good for standing back and supporting us without judging (or at least, not to our faces!).

    In the end, it's up to you – it's what YOU think is most comfortable for you. Even your other half can't make the decision for you. We talked about it a lot while I was pregnant, and he was supportive of whatever choice I wanted to make, but in the end, it turned out to be what I wanted when that time came (I had started going into labor before I made up my mind!).

    Good luck, and if you need someone else to bounce thoughts off of, I'm willing to chat! 🙂

    10 agree
    • Ahhh thank you thank you!

      I have absolutely zero desire to have a vaginal birth some day, and I had yet to encounter anyone who wasn't completely dismissive and patronising about it.

      It's not as if I haven't read up on the pros and cons of each, or am completely ignorant of what a C Section actually entails.

      I'm so glad to hear that somewhere out there, there is someone who has similar feelings to me on this issue!

      1 agrees
  32. I haven't read all the comment but I'll add my two cents worth.

    I've had an induction that lasted 4 days. A natural one, no drugs at a birthing center, and a C-section. By far the easiest, least painful (overall), and quickest recovery was the natural one. If I were to get pregnant again I would opt for the natural.

    Everyone loves giving you the horror stories when your pregnant. Easy birth stories are no fun. You have no idea what will happen to you when its time and as I can attest each of your births will be different. All I can say is research, research, research.

    1 agrees
  33. Having read through the comments, I agree with much of what has been said – what's right for you is what's right for you, in the end. However, before making this choice, please do look into the complications for the baby as well as the mother – not saying you wouldn't have, just it hasn't been mentioned here much. The potential complications are different, and you should be fully informed before making your decision 🙂

    2 agree
  34. I think most stuff has been covered, but just one more thing to think about:

    Check your insurance plan. If everything's covered 100%, it might not matter, but c-sections tend to be WAY more expensive than vaginal deliveries. More people involved, longer hospital stay, etc. If your insurance is only covering say 90% of things, you're looking at a potential difference of a few thousand dollars. That's a hefty bill to get whacked with when faced with all the added costs of a new baby.

    3 agree
  35. I had a c-section and it was the best experience ever! Obviously everyone experiences things differently. I'd say for every 3 c-sections stories I hear, there's 1 person who wasn't happy with it.

    Mine was fantastic though! Absolutely no regrets. It wasn't planned, but Baby decided to be 10 lbs 4 oz and he was NOT coming out on his own. I had great doctors and a relatively easy recovery.

    And now I'm happy I have an easy excuse never to have to try a VBAC – I'll never have to feel another contraction and I'll never have to squeeze out another 10 pound baby. As my nurse told me as I was being prepared for surgery: "Honey, I have 2 words for you. PERINEAL INTEGRITY."

    If it's what you want to do – do it.

    5 agree
  36. If you're afraid of birth, I'd recommend reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I was terrified until I read that book.

    1 agrees
  37. I have to agree with some of the other comments that there is a difference with recovery if it is a planned c-section where you arrive well rested and the doctors are not rushed versus an emergency one where your body has had to go through the equivalence of running a marathon and then having major surgery. One of my friends who had to have an emergency c-section for her first one was in bed for almost a month, but with her second scheduled c-section she was up within a week.
    I was expecting a long recovery time when I had my planned c-section (my guy was almost 10 pounds and there was concerns he might be even larger and not able to properly be delivered vaginally.) Instead I was up and about right away. I didn't have any issues with holding the baby or lifting him up and he was quite a big boy. I did have my mom helping me out the first few weeks with things like laundry and stuff so I avoided overdoing things, even though I think I probably could have managed and she was more educational than physical support. I was very careful about keeping my incision clean and didn't have any problems with infections. The only real pain I had was when I would get up to fast on occasion and that was a momentary searing ouch, not ongoing. I felt some pulling when he was delivered, but I kind of liked that in a way it made me feel more involved in the birth than if I was completely numbed. I was able to have skin to skin contact right away. Even right after the surgery I only needed something stronger than motrin when I was trying to sleep for one of the nights I was at the hospital. That said it seemed the way the nurses reacted to things that I was up and about quicker than average so I might have been lucky to have one of the better post op experiences. I mentally felt more comfortable with a c-section since I had experienced other surgeries in the past so for me I knew what to expect from that experience more than giving birth vaginally. We are only planning for one child, but if we had decided to have a second than I would have definitely chosen a c-section again.

    I would talk with your doctor. Depending on your age, medical history, and other factors even if you are not being told that you must have a c-section, there may be reasons that they might consider it for you beyond your preference for one.

    1 agrees
  38. As the others said: it is your choice, your body, whatever you choose will be the best for you and your family. But, you know, you can change along the way… Quick story short: due to my heavy past, I could not imagine that one day i'll have children. Then, If I had some, it would have been with a C-section, no other way possible. Then, it was out of question that I did not get a heavy dosed epidural… Then I got pregnant… And then I fought for an drug free birth (in a clinic because in France only 1% of the birth are at home and in my area it was not an option), even switching OB and clinic less than 2 months before the due date. And I got my drug-free birth, and regret nothing. What I mean is: explore all your options, and allow yourself to change your mind as often as you want along the way… Whatever you choose, you'll be the best!

  39. I've done both. Both hurt. But the c-section (for medical reasons, but i DID get to pick the date) really made for difficulties after, and it seemed to go on for weeks. Major pain meds are required, I took them for about a month, but felt awful the whole time because I was breastfeeding. Standing up, sitting down, walking, getting into a car, holding baby, doing ANYTHING sucks and hurts for weeks after. My vaginal birth, 15 years prior, was definitely no picnic; i tore, was cut, and he was delivered with forceps after pushing for hours with NO pain meds, but i felt much better a couple of days later, a week max:) Also, after the c-section, I was left with this poochy pouchy bit of skin (my kangaroo pouch) on my stomach that was definitely not there before, and didn't happen with the vaginal birth. It has to do with them having to sew everything back together in the end. Any way a baby comes out and everyone's healthy is fine by me, but given the choice, I'd do it the non-surgical way. Hope this helps!

  40. I probably shouldn't be replying, as I went vaginal with both of my children. But I've been working with OB patients (many in a similar situation as you) for the last three years and I think I can offer some decent advice.

    First and foremost, discuss with your OB what you want. He or she should go over risks associated with c-section delivery (as well as vaginal) and will probably try to talk you out of it. If you're uncomfortable with that doc, you can always (ALWAYS) find another one. Pregnancy is stressful enough without having a doctor you are not happy with. Be sure to express your own feelings/fears/desires. A doctor can only work with what information they have.

    Secondly, unless you're super open in your family, they really don't need to know the details of how the beautiful new addition to the family came into this world. If you are open about it, remember the decision is up to you and your wife and that if they say anything negative, it's probably meant out of a place of love and caring and they probably don't realize how it can come across. You can always tell them that you appreciate the feedback, but you've made your decision (or be less polite, you can always blame the hormones).

    And third, you may have a breech baby, your labor may not progress, or you might end up with any number of things requiring a c-section. You never know. Either way, I commend you for knowing what you want. I wish you the absolute best and look forward to your birth story, should you decide to submit it!

  41. At the moment, I'm still pregnant, but am booked for a c-section next month. There isn't technically a medical reason, but the reason for wanting a c-section is due to a previous traumatic birth.

    Sure, the planned c-section could still be awful but for me, there's no guarantee that labour wouldn't end in a c-section anyway and, if the c-section goes awry, at least I don't have to face the recovery of a failed vaginal delivery as well. The c-section is booked for exactly 39 weeks, but my obstetrician did warn me that I could still go into labour but I would be assessed by someone at that time and options discussed as to whether or not I wanted to go ahead with labour or go for an immediate c-section.

    On the whole, professionals have been supportive. I've been clear about my reasons and I've made sure to keep myself informed. I've read, and read, and read. Also, I've known my "rights" which here in the UK means that if an obstetrician wants to refuse my request for a c-section, they'd have to find someone who would agree to do it. My obstetrician was great though and was primarily concerned with knowing that I was informed and happy with what had brought me to my decision.

    As for family, they've been fantastic and understand completely and utterly why it is I've chosen a c-section. For anyone not aware of what's led to my decision, I've simply said it's what's best for me and baby.

    So given that we have yet to have baby, we have had the go-ahead to have a c-section. Important points though: be informed about childbirth as a whole (c-section and vaginal), talk through all the points that concern you – leave no stone unturned! – and remember that there's time to think about what it is you feel is best for you

  42. I was just like you TERRIFIED of going through a vaginal birth. I still tried natural, but my daughter had no desire to come out on her own. So ultimately I had to have an emergency c-section. My healing wasn't to bad, but I had also had a major abdominal surgery prior so I knew a little about what pain to expect. One of the most important tips I can give you is if you do the c-section is to make sure you get up & start moving as soon as you can.

    I can tell you that if we have another baby that I'm planning a c-section so I don't end up in the situation I was in last time. Good luck!!

    1 agrees
  43. Hey hun,
    I had both of my sons through c-sections. The first was due to medical emergent circumstances but 4 months ago, we had Cormac through a voluntary c/s that I chose to have so my family could be present. We live in Cleveland and my family is in Florida so for our first, I had no parents or siblings around – which was a big deal since I am 1 of 6 and the only one to even leave our county. Everyone involved respected my decision and I stand by it. Being able to share my son's birth with my family was everything I had hoped for.

    I healed quickly after both births (off meds about a week later) and was ready for normal activity and life with my two year old 2 weeks after Mac was born.

    I support you in your choice, and hope you have a wonderful birth experience when it comes. Best wishes, darlin.

    1 agrees
  44. In the U.K., our medical guidelines state that anyone can opt for a section for any reason. I opted for a section the second time round. It was for medical reasons but my consultancy team would have still preferred I did it 'naturally' – whatever that means nowadays. My planned section was lovely. I had a really nice team, they were all supportive and ensured my husband was included as much as possible in the experience. I had skin to skin with baby after and I healed really well. A far different experience to the hideousness of my first natural birth, which sucked and I did not heal well from.

    I think the experiences of a planned section and an emergency section are going to be completely different. At the end of the day, body autonomy means that we can now choose how we give birth. Hurrah for modern science. There are risks in both and whilst I'm not an advocate necessarily for the sun roof exit, if it's something you are leaning towards for your own reasons, there's no judgement from me.

    And I've seen a few 'what about the baby comments' – if you have medically backed research that suggests that the long term outcomes for a child are poorer because they are born via section, can I see it please? Otherwise your shaming of mothers in unfounded.

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