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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14 thoughts on “Cesarean Awareness Month: Why is it so hard to get a vaginal birth?”

  1. I realize that this may be an exception to the common practice, but I feel the need to point out that Yale (where I gave birth 6 weeks ago) offers VBAC classes through their women’s wellness center.

    What I don’t understand is how c-sections became elective surgeries. I know 2 people who gave birth around the same time as I did, and both opted for c-sections because their babies were “big.” My son was 9lbs. 8oz., and while the doctor said he’d probably be over 8lbs., nobody ever mentioned having a c-section because of it, and I certainly didn’t plan to. The people I know who chose to get c-sections both had babies less than 9lbs. I understand anatomy is different, but it just doesn’t make sense. Never, throughout my 41 hour labor, did the doctors say anything about c-section, and while I was pushing, my doctor even told me “You have an awesomely wide pelvis!” Maybe that’s why nobody mentioned c-section, haha.

    But seriously, I understand that there are medically necessary c-sections, and I also understand that doctors may be over-cautious and impatient, resulting in more c-sections. What I CAN’T understand is why a healthy woman with a healthy baby and healthy pregnancy would CHOOSE a c-section.

  2. What a post for me to read today! My older sister is going in today for a medically necessary induction – she hopes. She has a liver condition that is potentially dangerous to her baby. But he’s breech and large.

    I consider her one of the lucky ones though. Her OB just keeps saying she’ll be a C-section, but due to her condition she’s seeing a perinatologist who is going to try to turn the baby first. So wonderful that the person who will actually be handling her delivery is willing to take the extra steps to give her the chance to deliver vaginally rather than being so quick with the knife.

  3. 3wks ago, I vaginally delivered a 9lb 12oz baby boy. The OB that I was with during my pregnancy insisted that I would have to be a section because I’m not that big and the baby would get stuck due to his size. Due to an incredible twist of fate, when I went into labor (on Easter), my OB was out of town, and one of the midwives took over my care. She said that if I wanted to give it a try for a vaginal, then she would be there every step of the way. Well, after 5hrs of unmedicated labor, and only 2 pushes my son was born with no problem! He didn’t get stuck and I didn’t get torn to the n’th degree. The midwife said she’d delivered bigger babies from smaller women, and that my determination to deliver this baby vaginally, just like I did his siblings, was a major part in my success in doing so.

    I feel so blessed that I had the option of my last birth being an unmedicated vaginal; just like my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd were.

  4. Great post! Thanks for the reminder, I had 2 posts in my drafts waiting to be posted regarding Cesarean Awareness Month. I posted one today and will have a follow up tomorrow about the importance of choosing your birth location!

  5. I really appreciate the shout out Amy! Thank you! And thanks for providing so many other great links to go off and read which I am about to do right now!

  6. As you know I delivered a 10 lbs 4 oz baby at 41.5 weeks under a great deal of pressure from my midwives to get a c-section.

    I did the research, found out that the risks of a large baby were similar to the risks of a c-section…and went with the vaginal birth.

    Thank God for necessary c-sections but the current rate is bad for baby, bad for mom. I’m very concerned that so many women are convinced by doctors that c-sections are “safer”.

  7. I know what you mean.
    I had to have a c-section with my first one I had a lot of problems and whe was bron 6 weeks ealry. Not fun. 8 weeks latter we fanilly got to take her home.

  8. I don’t think this is necessarily a c-section only issue, but an issue of medical care as a whole.

    I think there might be more power to this movement if it joined forces with other groups rallying for common sense medical care.

    Corporations now make these decisions for us and that has got to change.

    Great great post, Amy.

  9. My first child was an emergency c-section, due to getting an infection during my long labor. I went on to have 3 more babies vaginally, and never once was there a question of having another c-section. I have run the gamut from epidural to no med’s at all, and have had hospital to mid-wife deliveries. The c-section was absolutely the most traumatic birth for me.

  10. Does anyone have any tips on how to find a provider and institution that will do a VBAC? I really want to try it with my next pregnancy but the odds are not looking in my favor from what I can tell….in terms of finding the right support team:-(

  11. Back in July of 2007, I was ten days overdue with my first baby. I was induced on July 5th at midnight. After a long day, I finally dilated to 10 cm and was allowed to push. I had an epidural and being my first pregnancy I wasn’t sure how to push effectively. I pushed for 3 hours, and the baby managed to come down to a +1 station. The nurse told me I was doing well, but told the OBGYN that I wasn’t making much progress. I was so discouraged. He offered me a vacuum assist, but after hearing the possible harm it could do to the baby, I opted for a C-section. My daughter was born weighing 9 lbs. She was never in distress, and I wonder if pushing for another hour or so and having a little bit of encouragement would have resulted in a successful vaginal delivery. My medical records indicate failure to progress and cephalopelvic disproportion. I’ve read cephalopelvic disproportion is rare, and if I truly had it, then why would the doctor offer a vacuum assist?!? I’m grateful that my daughter was born healthy, but to this day I still question whether or not my first C-section was necessary. I’ve undergone two more since then because I couldn’t find a doctor in the area in support of VBAC.

  12. I am all for being natural, but, what I think you are not connecting to this story is the right to choose.

    How a woman prefers to handle pregnancy is her business; no one else has a right to chime in on her decision. Now, if it is something doctors or hospitals attempt to force on her, such as VBAC, I understand the distress. However, for women, like myself, who do not want natural birth–the reasoning of which I will not elaborate on because it is none of your business–I think everyone should butt out of that choice and allow her to do what feels best for her body without condemning her decision.

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