Today is Caesarean Section Day:
History, Tips, Facts & Knowledge
January 14th is Caesarean Section Day and I felt it would be fairly appropriate to discuss some interesting facts and details about this birth choice since I will be giving birth in 10 days through a scheduled c-section. While my first pregnancy was not a planned c-section, I did wind up having an emergency caesarean section after 15+ hours of labor. Therefore, I have opted to schedule a c-section for my 2nd pregnancy as opposed to a VBAC alternative.
I decided to do a little research and investigate further background history, facts, statistics and tips for a healthy recovery before heading in for my c-section next week. Since a caesarean was not part of my birth plan during my first pregnancy, I did very little research and went into labor very unprepared for what could happen. That’s why I am educating myself this time around and hopefully arming myself with more knowledge about the process as a whole.
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How common are caesarean sections today?
A recent study says 1 in 3 first-time moms (32.8% in 2010 and 2011) are giving birth by caesarean section, which are most likely to have repeat C-sections.
In an effort to explain the high cesarean section rate, health professionals often point the blame on mothers. Many assume that leading factors for the rise in c-sections are due to more and more women asking for c-sections that have no medical rationale, the number of women who genuinely need a cesarean is increasing, and/or that the liability pressure is increasing the rate of surgeries. However, no one reason has been found to be the primary reason to hold accountable as a sole factor for the growth in caesarean sections, which has been steadily increasing since 1996.
Why do women need a caesarean section?
There are many different reasons why an expectant mom would require or elect to have a caesarean section such as, preexisting conditions, complications during labor, or complications in pregnancy where a vaginally delivery may pose a risk to the baby. Women are having elective caesarean sections, which means the surgery is performed for reasons other than medical necessity. One reason for this is that many women find it convenient to plan the date of their child’s birth. However, other women prefer a c-section because it is quicker than a vaginal birth.
Caesarean Section Risks
When c-sections are done, most women and babies are fine, especially due to advancements in medicine and surgical refinements in recent years. However, c-sections are a major operation with risks included with the surgery itself and anesthesia. The rate of cesarean birth has increased rapidly over the last decade. Some health care providers believe that many c-sections are performed without any evidence of medical necessity.
Risks for Baby:
Anesthesia: Medications make the woman numb so she can’t feel pain. Some babies are affected by the drugs given to the mother during surgery and may cause the baby to be inactive or sluggish.
Breathing problems: Even if the baby is full-term, babies born by caesarean section are more likely to have breathing problems than babies that are delivered vaginally.
Risks for Mom:
Bladder or bowel injuries.
Blood clots in the legs, lungs, or pelvic organs.
Increased bleeding, which may result in a need for blood transfusion.
Infection in the incision, uterus, or nearby organs.
Reaction to medications, including anesthesia.
Death is rare, but it is a much more likely risk compared to vaginal delivery.
Future pregnancies following a c-section birth may result in a risk for..
Placenta Previa: The placenta implants very low in the uterus; covers all or part of the internal opening of the cervix/birth canal/
Placenta Accreta: The placenta implants too deeply and/or too firmly to the uterine wall.
*Both of these conditions can lead to severe bleeding during labor and delivery, endangering mother and baby. Risks increase with the number of pregnancies.
History of Caesarean Sections:
* Who was the first to perform a caesarean section? Dr. Jesse Bennett performed the first caesarean section in North American in 1794. At the age of 24, Dr. Bennett performed the first c-section on his wife, Elizabeth. The surgery was performed without any antiseptics and equipment inside of their modest home in Virginia Too much of Dr. Bennett’s surprise, his wife and baby survived the operation.
* When were c-sections first performed? Caesarean sections have been performed as far back as the Julius Caesar era, but they always resulted in the mother dying. The first recorded woman to survive the surgery didn’t occur until the 1500’s.
* Caesarean sections were only performed when the woman was dead or dying as an attempt to rescue the fetus in ancient times.
* Caesarean delivery has become the most commonly performed operation in hospitals in Western countries.
* Controversy surrounds the rate of caesarean section and its use for reasons other than medical necessity.
* During the 1850′s, maternal mortality following Caesarean sections was principally due to hemorrhage, infection, or both. Anesthesia, improved surgical technique, and antisepsis were introduced in an effort to reduce these complications.
* Ines Ramirez performed a caesarean section on herself on March 5, 2000. She is believed to be the first woman to have successfully performed the surgery on herself.
Caesarean Section Recovery & Aftermath
A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery, which will require a longer recovery period over vaginal delivery. Recovering from a c-section comes over a matter or months and can be a difficult time for women. Here are a few quick tips, facts, and to-do’s that I learned post-caesarean section after the birth of my son:
START MOVING AROUND & WALKING!
I know that the last thing you will want to do in the hours following your c-section is walk, but this is one fairly major regret that I had in the recovery period following my sons birth. I basically sat in that hospital bed and relax – a lot. Yes, I needed the rest and relaxation, but I should have moved around more than I was in order to help the recovery happen faster.
Ask your nurses and/or doctors for permission (before anything!) and start off by standing up and slowly pacing around the hospital room. You’ll feel like you are walking in circles, but I can tell you from experience – it is going to take a few minutes for you to cover the circumference of that room! You will most likely be unable to stand completely straight, so feel free to stay slouched over until you feel comfortable straightening your back. Start off slow with 5-minute walks around the room or standing next to your hospital bed as you move your legs around. Progress at your own pace, but definitely avoid laying around whenever possible.
TAKE YOUR MEDICATIONS
Your doctor will discharge you from the hospital with painkillers to help ease the pain of your incision. Don’t anticipate the c-section scar or abdominal cramping to be anything remotely similar to period cramps. The pain from post-caesarean is much more intense and you will need to take your painkillers no matter what. They will not only help to subside the pain "today", but help you to get moving around the house without being slowed down from the pain. As previously discussed (above), moving around is going to promote a speedy recovery. Don’t forget to take your pain medication regularly and on time, even if ou don’t think you need it at the moment. I regretfully thought that I was healed and no longer needed my pain medications, but quickly realized that I was only feeling better at the moment due to the pain killers helping!
CONQUER THE STAIRS
This is not going to be an easy task, but you need to tackle them head on and likely won’t be able to avoid them. The hardest part of my recovery was walking up and down the steps in our home. There was a main flight into our living room from the front door, which included well over 15 steps. Once I made it indoors, I made it a point to stay put and avoid going outdoors whenever possible! However, I also had a set of 6 steps that I could not avoid at ALL because they divided the very main (and – unavoidable) rooms in our home.
Watch your step! Surviving the steps is going to be a challenge, so take your time and brace yourself because this isn’t going to be pretty. Start off by walking up the steps backwards so that you don’t have to straighten your back as much and stand in an inclined position that will require using your stomach muscles. I did this for approximately 1-week post surgery and I would give this idea full credit for making sure I actually made it to the bedroom and bathroom! Once I started to feel better, I rotated more and more until I was finally walking up the staircase looking forward. You can graduate from backwards to sidewards as you feel comfortable. I would say that the entire process of regaining the ability to walk up the staircase with a ’normal’ stance took approximately 3-4 weeks. It is gradual, but possible!
TAKE IT EASY
Yes, I told you to move around and walk whenever possible. However, I also think it is equally important to rest whenever possible. Your body has just been thrown into a whirlwind of pain, unbalances, and scheduling conflicts that are going to run you down. Try to keep everything that you will need for you and the baby within reach. If you do most of your hanging out in the living room during the day, setup a changing station with wipes, powder, diapers, and ointments in arms reach. Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby during the first 4-6 weeks.
Use good posture when standing and walking to promote recovery and avoid extra pain(s). You will have sudden onset pain at unexpected moments, so don’t think your abdomen is okay and start ‘acting normal’. Things will slowly process and pain will wither away, but there will be moments when your body reminds you that it is in recovery (still). Hold your abdomen while sneezing, laughing, or coughing. I remember telling people to avoid telling jokes around me because the pain was overwhelming while laughing, which causes the abdomen to jolt up and down.
Help replace fluids lost during delivery and breast-feeding and drink lots of fluids. This will also help to prevent constipation. Empty your bladder frequently in an effort to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
Signs of Incision Infection:
Keep an eye on your incision and contact your health care provider if anything seems unusual. Here are a few signals that there may be an infection:
* The incision is red, leaking discharge, or swollen.
* Fever higher than 100.4 F.
* Increasing pain around the incision.