Has anyone considered an elective c-section?

I realise I may provoke some strong reactions by asking this, but I would be very interested to hear people's views. I asked my midwife about it, and she looked horrified and asked why I would ever consider having one that wasn't medically necessary. There are a few reasons. A very good friend of mine who had a natural birth recently had a really awful experience: she was told it was too late for her to have an epidural, she had a horrendously painful time, and then afterwards learned that the damage done to her pelvic floor muscles during labour was probably irreparable. Apparently she didn't have any of the risk factors (large baby etc) but it still happened. And that was in addition to the 'usual' tearing etc.

More than anything I am worried about something going wrong during a natural delivery and the baby being harmed (e.g. the baby being stuck in the birth canal). Did anyone see 'One Born Every Minute' last night? If so, you would have seen that poor woman whose baby's shoulders got stuck and who had an agonising wait while the midwives sorted it out. It all turned out ok in the end but it was quite a serious situation. How can it be good for a baby (particularly the head) to get that squashed?? In contrast, they also showed someone else having a c-section: after they'd made the incisions etc they fished the baby out in about thirty seconds - no problems.

I am aware that there is a longer recovery time for c-sections, but then I've also heard from friends that have had natural births that it takes a while to recover from those too! You're weakened because of blood loss from tearing etc. Also, I don't drive anyway so that side of things is not going to affect me.

All thoughts (particularly reassurance from people who have had natural births!) gratefully received!

23 Replies

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  • I have had two natural births with both I was in labour for 10 hours. The first baby was 4 weeks early so total shocker when I went into labour had a few drugs to ease the pain but he was back to back so took alot of pushing to get out but he came out in the end with help of the vantouse. My 2nd baby was a few days early and it was done purely on paracetomol and gas & air. I felt robbed that I didn't demand more drugs.

    You can't just judge what your own labour is going to be like from what has happened to your friends or what you have seen on the tv.

    I think that labour is very much like going on a aeroplane with a toddler, it is a nightmare at the time and you wished yo had never done it and will never do it again but by the time you get home the flight is all forgotten about and you are planning you next holiday(thats the only way I can describe it if you have ever taken a toddler abroad :-))

    I personally would not have a home birth as in the hospital there is alot of on hand experienced midwife/doctors so that if anything does go wrong they are only a pull cord away.

    Your gonna have a baby at the end of it and a little hard graft and pain to get to it is well worth it.

  • Yes I saw one born every minute made me cry how scary! I've had 1 natural 1 c section then 2 natural, I could of opted for sections after having one but chose to have natural as you are back on your feet quicker... my section was 15 years ago when they used to keep you in hosp for 3 days plus, its not like that anymore!I've had 2 friends that had to have sections and they have been sent home too early and have been in bad pain, unless you have good support and no complications c sections do really take it out of you, I lost a lot of blood with mine my blood count was 6.7,I'll never forget! I felt exhausted but they did say i wouldn't of been able to give birth naturally to her when they saw how big she was 9lb 10, so thank god I did have the section it is a worry I must admit and do understand how you feel! X

  • Hi Hippolike (fab name btw!)

    Firstly don't worry about provoking strong reactions and the like - it is your job to research all the options available to you.

    I think you are scared - all first time mums are and the thought of something going wrong in labour is almost too much to bear (I saw OBEM too - yikes). For every horror story there are many more boring, 'normal' birth stories! I'm pregnant with my second and had a lovely, natural water birth with my son - some gas during contractions and nothing during pushing so am a big advocate for natural deliveries! I did tear, and the recovery wasn't the most pleasant experience but from what I can judge from close friends who have had sections, my recovery was a lot easier than their's. Another thing to bear in mind is that c-sections can have complications too - and *can* cause problems with bonding, breast feeding etc (I stress the CAN, I know not always!). I think c-sections are amazing and under lots of circumstances have saved tons of mums and babes - but they are a major op that, personally, I think should only be had under medical advice.

    If I could suggest one thing it's good antenatal classes. I did an nct course which I went into terrified and after learning about what actually happens in labour, what options are available etc I felt a world better!

    It's a case of opting for what works for you - a drug free slog, drug filled slog or section - we're all different. Good luck! :-)

    Ps. Can you opt for a section in your area?? I don't think it's even an option in mine! Amazing how different pct's are!

  • Two months ago today I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy in pretty much the same way as your friend: surprisingly fast labour and delivery with no opportunity for any pain relief besides gas and air, culminating in a 3c tear (not to be googled by the faint of heart) for which I had no known risk factors. It was an awful, traumatic experience from which I still haven't fully recovered, emotionally or physiclaly, and yet I can honestly say that the little lad sleeping next to me on his father's lap right now was totally worth it and that I wouldn't advise you to go for a c-section. As the midwife explained to me at my 6-week check-up at the perineal clinic, the risk of what happened to me happening to me was very small. I think it was something like 1 in 1000, though don't quote me on the figures as I've got baby brain. The point is, though I was very unlucky, there was no reason to believe that was going to happen to me, and it's very probably not going to happen to you. And a c-section is a major operation--that doesn't just mean that you can expect a long recovery time, it also means that there are some very real risks involved in having one. I would advise you to sit down and make a list of everything you're afraid might happen during a vaginal delivery and ask someone from your healthcare team to take you through the odds of those things actually occurring compared to the odds of various complications that can arise during a c-section. That should help put things into perspective for you. There's a reason the NHS only allow elective c-sections for women who have a genuine phobia of childbirth.

    P.S. Stop watching TV shows about childbirth. Remember, easy, uncomplicated births don't make for compelling viewing, and the makers of these programmes have ratings to chase.

  • I should clarify, I wasn't quite correct in the way I used the term "elective" above. As far as I'm aware, the NHS don't usually allow elective c-sections that aren't medically advised except in case of phobia, but obviously women have elective c-sections that are medically advised all the time, e.g. like Rowdy's situation below where due to the size of the baby complications with a vaginal birth were very likely. So, I'm not advocating that you go for a vaginal delivery even if you're advised to consider a c-section. Rather I'm advocating that you think very carefully before going against the medical advice you're given.

  • I had an elective section 8 weeks ago. My baby was very big so the doctor said the c- section was the safest option. I was so glad I did, because my epidural didn't work, they had to knock me out. My husband was there and there was a lot of panic as I hemoraged badly, then the baby was stuck and the cord was around his neck a couple of times. I hate to think how things would have gone if I had opted for a natural birth. I was in a lot of pain when I came to, but not too bad the next day. I even managed a shower the next morning. I have recovered really well. I was drivng a week later! I think you should do whatever feels right for you. I was worried about bonding. I didn't see him for three hours after he was born but I shouldn't have worried. It was love at first sight and can't imagine life without him now. I'm breast feeding him and I think that strenghtens the bond. Good luck with whatever you decide. Don't let anyone make you feel bad, it's your body and your baby,do what's best for you. X

  • Hi, I also saw the show, interestingly you focus on that story, when the other births went very well. Especially one lady that made the whole thing look easy. But what I do think the show showed, what the sliding scale of possible outcomes. Talk through with the midwife, and see how you can plan for different eventualities. As a first time mum, you never know you might be like the lady on the show that made it look easy! Thats what I'm hoping for!

  • I had a c-sec (emergency not elective) with my first and whilst it wasn't as bad as I had been lead to believe it would be I won't be opting for a c-sec this time. The recovery time was horrid as I am normally a very active person so found it hard to sit and do basically nothing. The pain was so much that I needed help tons it up in bed at night and have my baby passed to me for feeding so it was very hard on my husband too. I ended up spraining my wrists trying to sit up not using my tummy muscles. After 6 weeks I thought I was fine and started doing stuff which started my bleeding again which then lasted till 10 weeks. You do still get bleeding post c-sec although is apparently normally less.

    Obviously a vaginal birth cones with one set of issues and potential problems but there are plenty of risks with a c-sec too (and baby can still get fairly stuck - mine did and had to be wrestled out which resulted in me getting puled down the operating table!) which is why they don't like doing them without medical reason. It may help to go to a caesaren workshop (NHS or nct) where they will talk you through it all (my hubby passed out in this workshop!). Get all the facts and risks and make an informed decision - at the end of the day you have to go for the birth you feel is right for you....

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to send these detailed responses ladies! It has been really helpful reading all your stories. I like the analogy between a natural birth and taking a toddler on holiday :) Interesting too the people who had an ok experience of medically necessary c-section first time around, but wouldn't do it again if it could be avoided. I am signed up for antenatal classes, starting mid-April, so no doubt they will be very informative too.

    In answer to dons88's question, in my area (I'm with UCH) elective c-section is not an ''option'' as such - rather, I think that if you express interest in it they send you to a consultant who will try to talk you out of it! But, I am told, if after that you still want one, they won't refuse. Tabby101's mention of a caesarian workshop is intriguing - I will find out if that is an option too.

    Carren's point about the dramatic birth stories making the best TV is certainly right, and making a list of my concerns to speak to my midwife about is good advice. My friend who had the pelvic floor damage says the same thing as you: that even though she had a really difficult birth, she's ecstatic with her little boy and just happy that he's healthy.

    Yes, the red-head on OBEM certainly did make natural birth look easy - what a trooper!

  • Hello Hippolike,

    I'm considering an elective caesarian. I had my little boy four years ago and had some trouble pushing him out. He was eventually born with forceps and I found it very frightening. I'm worried about going through the same thing again and also very worried about tearing (I know for most people this seems to be quite a small thing, and I know the recovery is quick, but I have a bit of a horror of it). I'm also thinking that I'm 40 years old and not the fittest person in the world, so am likely to find natural birth harder. And then I think, it's what our bodies were made for and I should be able to do it. And despite the difficulty of my first birth, I recovered quickly, had a shower and saw visitors the same morning (it was so surreal after going through such a hard time) and bonded with my baby well. So I just keep thinking my options over. I'm 19 weeks so plenty of time to keep mulling it over.

  • Hi, i will be asking for a section. I have multiple sclerosis and know my body won't have the energy or strength to get through a natural birth. i also have nil pelvic tone (due to MS) so don't want to put unwanted stress on that area.

  • I had a section with my first baby who is now 4, its was a planned section due to having preaclampsia and baby needing to be brought early (5) weeks.

    Although the recovery is painful and can be abit annoying when unable to do everything you want to I found the actual section very painless and easy, I was numbed from just below my breast bone via a spinal tap at 11.00 on a Saturday morning and by 11.30 I had my baby in my arms - amazing, The stitch up took longer than getting the baby out. Once the spinal tap had worn off obviously the pain kicks in but the medication given then was also very good. Only down fall is for the first 2 days it was very hard to move around and carry baby when standing up actually stand up straight was a nightmare but the sooner you do it the better you feel. In terms of handling the baby afterwards all depends on the weight, Keira was only 4lb 3oz so she was no problem at all for me.

    Bare in mind though you cant drive for 8 weeks after a section your licence is suspended with the DVLA during this time and pushing the pram is painful and shouldn't be done if you can help it. Taking showers instead of bath due to stitches can be a pain for some people but that didnt bother me and I have healed really well withing about 5 weeks I was pain free completely.

    All i would say is your internal muscles will never be the same again and carrying another child for the second time as I am now is alot harder and painful from the start. x

    Hope this helps and good luck. :-)

  • My sister and sis-in-law both had a c-section recently and both have recovered quite quick i would say - my sister infact is already on her job after giving birth to a baby boy 3 weeks earlier than her DD in January. My sis-in-law on other hand had a delayed birth and would not go into labor even after being induced on 42nd week (guess she was very scared).

    But I am still hoping for a natural birth and trying to mentally prepare myself for it, I am 24 weeks atm. I am ofcourse not watching any serials or videos on birthing (did it in my first trimester, but they were too scary for me)

  • Thanks ladies! All the best to you all xx

  • I've recently found out I'm pregnant with my second child.My first, like the OBEM delivery, was an emergency forceps, with a shoulder dystocia. My daughter was 8lb, so not an abnormally large baby by any means. Ever since my first delivery, I have been adamant I will be having an elective section, and I stand by this now. I have researched and researched every aspect of shoulder dystocia deliveries, and if you have had one, you are 60% more likely to have another. Under the current NICE guidelines, ANY woman can ask for an elective section, however if it is your first pregnancy they will, quite rightly, advise you to try for a vaginal delivery, as the risk s lower and recovery are sooo much quicker.

    If I could be told that my labour and delivery would be different this time from last, I would definitely go for it, however as there are no guarantees, I feel emotionally a section is a better option, even though physically it will be harder, especially with a toddler.

    I hope you make the right decision for you, whatever you decide :) Good luck!

  • Hi - I will be investigating "elective" c section. I'm scared of the birth however it's done - c section or natural and I want to be as well informed about the risks and benefits of both options before I decide. What's really on my mind though is a really bad family history of pre-eclampsia, and how frightening it was watching my sister going though all the emergency processes and ultimately not only a c section, but full blown fitting and organ failure. Both mum and baby survived but it was a close call on both counts, and being there to help support her through it put the fear of god into me! I would just rather plan for the worst and hope for the best, and if "electing" for a c section can make me think that there is a team of people prepared to handle it and step in, in a controlled way, I'd rather build my trust in that team and prepare myself mentally for what will happen ahead of time than have the panic my sister and her doctors had. With my mum, aunts and sister all having had pre-eclampsia, I'm more inclined to trust doctors than nature! But I do want to be aware of the risks of it too before I fully decide.

    I think the only thing you can do is ask lots of questions and go with what feels right to you.

  • I had a emergency c section with my daughter. If you don't need then don't have it. A c section is really painful and it takes longer to recover. With my son I had a natural delivery the pain went away as soon as I had my son

  • Hi. I had an incredibly long labour. Was in slow labour for 2 weeks ( I got up to 1&half cm) then was induced but only got up to 2 cm and I was 42 + 3. In hospital for a WEEK then had an emergancy c-section as my daughters head was tilted & stuck. You could see the top of her head but she wasn't far enough for them to help me push her out.

    I recovered incredibly quickly as was doing everything on my own from when daughter was 5 days old. BUT the day she was born I couldn't look after her due to the epidural and I had capathiter and my bladder still wasn't 'working' and I'd drank several liters the day before.

    If I was too ever have another baby I'd ask for c - section, and I just said about my labour because in hindsight I'd of asked for a c-section on the tue/wed instead of having an emergancy one on the saturday. Instead of going through that whole week of 'hell'.

    All the best xx

  • Thanks for your responses, ladies! I have an appointment with the c-section 'consultant' in a couple of weeks, so will have a chance to ask her about some of these points then xx

  • I think everyone has the pre labour nerves but, like others have said, every labour and birth is different. It is a major op tho and something that can have it's own dangers. Plus i don't think it's an option now unless medically recommended. I spent my whole pregnancy saying i wanted a water birth and only natural pain relief plus paracetamol. After 40 hrs labour, i was induced and had every drug they'd offered inc the epidural, which i got two hits of and it was a god sent! Didn't feel a thing pushing my 10lb 8oz daughter out and only a bit of tearing and stitches. For me the recovery stage was harder than the birth, but it all passes so quickly; i can't even remember what it felt like now 16 months later. Best of luck anyway and keep positive. Also see if there's an active birth class near you. My midwife ran one and it really helped prepare me mentally, also gave lots of advice about exercises to get baby in right position (think scrubbing the floor). :) You can do it! X

  • I requested an elective c-section I have always had a fear of giving Birth naturally. At 38wk & 5 days I discussed my fears with the consultant who was very understanding and in her words said I'm not going to stand here and tell you how to give birth. Three days later i gave birth to my beautiful baby girl by elective c-section. The Birth was just has I had always hoped. Three days later discharged home. People go on about it being more painful than natural labour however in my own experience I stopped taking any pain medication within a week. I could handle and care for my baby no problem. I was on my own because my partner had just started a new job and couldn't have anytime off. Quite a number of my friends have given birth naturally and had c sections they all said they would opt for a c section every-time. Don't let other people's views influence your decision go with what you want. I hope you get the delivery you want. Nice guidelines changed in November 2011 and a women's requested for a c-section should not be ignored. Good luck and all the best.

  • Hello there.

    Firstly i want you to believe in yourself and your ability to birth naturally-it is what your body was designed to do and the majority of women can achieve this. There are occasions where problems do arise and surgery is needed but your midwife is right to say that this is only advised if it is deemed safer. A c-section is major abdominal surgery with heavy aneasthetic and carries many risks in itself. It takes a long time to recover not just in hospital and on the outer scar but your pelvic organs all suffer from the scar tissue produced by invasive surgery. Normal birth is also far better for your baby. Your baby was designed to pass through your birth canal, this is the way its lungs are stimulated and cleared, the way its skull is designed and the way its circulatory system is adapted. C-sections do not stimulate babies in the same way and can cause something called transitory tachyapnea of the newborn where the babies repsiartory and circulatory system have insufficient stimuli. Basically they go from one second being cosy in thier membrane to suddenly been in the outside world- babies were not designed to do this so quickly.

    The most important thing is for you to be prepared- write a birth plan! Think about your pain relief options well in advance of labour- to know fully what each entails. Look at the multitude of positions you can be in to relieve labour pain, consider waterbirth as this can be amazing.

    You also have to consider what you would be asking of staff, it is not fair to ask a consultant to do surgery on someone whom it is not medically needed- they are taking a huge professional risk for both you and your baby.

    But having said this- this is your baby, your birth and your choice. Go and see someone about your concerns, go and visit your labour ward, attend antental classes and read books on natural birth. Try and see it as a postive thing, a beautiful thing and an empowering thing. Yes labour is painful but being physically and psychologically prepaed is critical. Im certainly not trying to drill into you that surgery isnt the easy way out but more trying to encourage you to belive in yourself and your ability to birth, to have an open mind and be prepared, to practice mechanisms for coping- to try and look at labour as something you can enjoy and not fear. While programmes such as one born every minute are good and sharing friends stories is great you have to remember every birth in completely unique- this is your birth and nobody elses. It wont be like anyone elses and therfore is about what is best for you, you patner and your baby.

    Take care

  • I had an emergency section with my daughter as my placenta had started coming away. I am really pleased i had a spinal block rather than general anaesthetic as it was really nice for my husband to be able to sit with me during the delivery and we both got to see our gorgeous girl as soon as she was born. Personally I found the bonding slightly difficult at first as I couldn't get my head around her being in my tummy one minute then out the next with no warning!

    The recovery is difficult and you shouldn't forget you have had a major operation which makes looking after a newborn pretty tricky...but my husband was amazing, changed all the nappies, got her dressed, washed and got up and passed her to me for night feeds! We were able to be intimate again in just over 2 weeks but I certainly didn't feel back to my normal self for a few months and got the odd twinge up to about 9 months if I did any heavy lifting or stretched funny.

    I am currently in the first trimester and cannot decide whether to have an elective or vbac this time around, I would love to experience labour (as I had none the first time around even though I felt so prepared for it so I felt a bit robbed!) but am now scared of the unknown and due to the complications last time it might be better for the baby to have another section.

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