Caesarean Awareness Month - Why we must educate about the C-word

Published on: 30/04/2021


As April comes to an end, many social media and blog posts have featured Caesarean births as a topic.Women and birthing people each have their own unique story to tell, some of them who chose to have caesareans, other who had no choice, and again others, whose choice was removed.

Therefore, Caesarean Awareness Month is a way to openly talk about Caesareans and educate people.

International Caesarean Awareness Month in April was brought to life by the non-profit organisation ICAN, The International Caesarean Awareness Network. Their mission is to not only support birthing people who had Caesareans and are recovering, but also to inform people that many C-sections can be avoided and that you can have a vaginal birth after a Caesarean (VBAC).

Some C-sections are necessary and save lives. They need to be performed for reasons such as when the baby is in breech or feet first position, the mother goes into labour too early, if there are complications during labour or if there are medical conditions such as a low-lying placenta or a virus such as HIV. Whilst C-sections can save many lives, there has been a steep increase in the number of Caesareans performed in recent years and this has drawn attention to the fact that many of them are unnecessary and were not needed. In the UK, around a quarter of births are C-sections, but it is debated that not all of those had valid reasons. In other countries, the figures are even higher, with Cyprus recording 52% of C-sections out of all births. Whilst more research has to be conducted to understand the varying numbers worldwide, staff from the Royal College of Midwifes note that C-sections are still an emergency procedure, and not a lifestyle choice, and should be treated as such. Despite Caesareans being a safe operation, the risks for mothers and babies, including birthing subsequent children, are higher than vaginal births.

We talked to a couple of ladies from our OBS Family and got their personal stories about their C-sections.

Leah, founder and director of The OBS, still feels emotional when she talks about her C-section with her first son. Her original birthing plan did not account for any medical procedures.
“My birth plan was holistic, natural, untouched and unmedicated”, she tells me, “and the emergency Caesarean was not part of this plan”.
Leah had a long labour and was pushing for 9 hours and was subsequently induced to give birth, but this went wrong, meaning that her baby became stressed.
“I felt like I had failed, and my husband also felt helpless when the midwife and surgeon told me I had to have a C-section. In addition to this, I felt that all my wishes were ignored, I wasn’t well informed, and I was openly told that my emotional welfare was not their priority.”
The operation itself wasn’t an experience Leah likes to reminisce about either.
“It was really scary”, she recalls, “I was barked at, I felt ill informed and pressured into something I didn’t want.”
Her partner was present throughout and got to hold their son whilst Leah was being stitched up and taken care of.
“I didn’t get to hold my baby for 23 minutes after the birth. My partner held him, but only because he went to get him.”
Leah discharged herself from hospital shortly after, despite being scared of the damage to her body.
I felt judged and couldn’t make my own choices. I wanted to breastfeed my son, but they took him, telling me I had to rest. I chose to be exhausted to be with him.”
Her recovery was painful and slow, and she wants to help educate women to ensure they have the right to be informed and make decisions based on knowledge rather than pressure. Her advice to come armed with knowledge to labour is something she experienced whilst helping another mother in her capacity as a doula.

Nicole credits Leah and her support for “literally saving” her birth.As a woman of colour, Nicole was terrified of the mortality statistics during birth and also was nervous about giving birth during a pandemic.

“Leah is not only efficient, kind and caring but will also ensure that you know your rights, that medical staff follow the right procedures and that you receive the best possible care.”
Nicole’s original plan was a home birth, but the home birthing team was suspended.Despite Leah’s help during her time at home, they decided to go to hospital for a check-up, during which Nicole was told she would need a C-section.
“I felt pressured into something I didn’t want”, Nicole recalls.
Leah’s communication with the midwives meant that Nicole gave birth naturally after only 2 hours after her water had broken.She also ensured that Nicole was not pressured into consenting for the Vitamin K injection and stayed with her to ensure she got cleaned up and gave breastfeeding advice.

Whilst it is acknowledged that C-sections are necessary in some circumstances, it is also known that they are a quicker birthing option, facilitating quicker turn-around at hospitals and in those countries with health insurances, also the most profitable option.

Women have a choice and need to be treated with the respect and the courtesy they deserve, especially when they are about to give birth.Education and knowledge are key, to ensure C-sections remain an emergency procedure only.

References:

International Cesarean Awareness month: April 1-April 30. / MÉLÒDÝ JACÒB (melodyjacob.com)

Cesarean Awareness Month - April 2021 (whathealth.com)

C-section rates 'vary widely' across Europe - BBC News