For caesarean awareness month I thought that we would bust some caesarean birthy bullshit (let's call it "caesarean crap"). I asked in my group (VBAC Australia Support Group) for some caesarean myths that women had heard and OMG - the amount of absolute bullshit that women are being told in regards to caesareans and birthing after a caesarean is astonishing. Even more astonishing - A lot of this nonsense is being spouted by health care professionals. Rather than write an entire book, I decided to shine a light on my top 5 caesarean myths and just why they are bullshit.
DISCLAIMER: Of course some of these myths will hold true for some women. However as general statements aimed at entire populations they are just nonsense. And the lack of individuality to the comments is possibly what makes them complete crap.
Myth: Caesareans are a risk free way to birth
Truth: Caesareans are major surgery. You have anaesthetic risks and then they cut a hole in you big enough to get a baby out. You have all the usual risks of surgery - PLUS the additional risks to future pregnancies. But still this myth is being told to women often.
In talking to women in the VBAC Australia Support group I found that many were not told of any risks associated with caesareans - despite this pamphlet from RANZCOG having a pretty substantial list of risks. Many women were told (by their care providers who should know better!) that there are no risks associated with caesarean surgery, it is "simple, straight forward and completely safe", that the risks are the same as for any surgery, and that VBAC is infinitely more dangerous. This is very dangerous caesarean crap because women are deciding to have caesarean surgery with little comprehension of the risks ahead of them - including risks to their long term health and even to their life. And when you don't know the risks of something you a) can't give valid consent and b) can't mitigate those risks.
Myth: There's no risk to the baby
Truth: While the risks to baby do tend to be lower than those for mum, there are still risks. RANZCOG lists breathing difficulties and cuts to baby as potential risks. However it is widely acknowledged that there are also potential complications with breastfeeding (delay in milk coming in, mum and bub being separated); and iatrogenic prematurity - where baby is born before they are ready and need extra assistance. If mum requires a general anaesthetic for the surgery, this also adds risks to the baby.
I would also add that any risk to mum IS a risk to the baby as well - as a healthy mother is definitely important for the health and wellbeing of the baby.
Myth: Doctors would NEVER do unnecessary caesareans
Truth: Judging by the number of women being told that they "need" a caesarean who are going on to have perfectly safe and healthy vaginal births I can assure you that this is a load of crap. For me personally, I was told during my second caesarean that I'm "just not designed to birth my babies", which was obviously nonsense as I went on to have a beautiful easy freebirth 4 years later. If I had listened to that Dr I would have had a completely unnecessary major surgery. And I'm certainly not the only woman in this position - I've supported several women lately who have had caesareans booked for them or been told that a vaginal birth simply would not be supported who have gone on to have safe, healthy vaginal births. There are definitely a LOT of unnecessary caesareans being booked in, and if even only half of them go through that's still a lot of unnecessary surgery.
Myth: Emergency caesareans are always an emergency
Truth: Emergency caesarean just means a caesarean done once labour has started. It doesn't mean that there was a life and death emergency. In fact the most common reason for a primary emergency caesarean is simply "failure to progress" (otherwise known as "failure to wait" or " failure to support the woman's birthing physiology"). Conversely an elective caesarean can absolutely be a life saving surgery in such cases as severe pre-eclampsia and placenta praevia. So many women tell me that their caesarean was an emergency and then tell me that they waited several hours for the surgery to happen...which doesn't sound very emergency-like to me.
Myth: You can just have a natural birth next time
Truth: In Australia our VBAC rate is 15% (or thereabouts) which suggests that it's really just not that easy. But telling women that they can just have a natural birth next time is often used as a way of helping women to feel better about the circumstances of their caesarean and to lessen any trauma as well as "encouraging" consent. What they don't tell us is that our next pregnancy will be considered high risk, that we will have a LOT of hoops to jump through, that we may struggle to find good support for a VBAC, and that we will have many restrictions placed on us.
There are many many more myths surrounding caesareans and birth after caesarean, but these were my fave ones from all those that were mentioned. On the post, I commented that maybe I should ditch the blog post and write a book - there really were that many myths brought up!
What weird and random myths have you heard about caesareans?
Comment below and let me know.
And please always remember that YOU MATTER.
Much love, Lizzie.
PS: Want some help working through caesarean crap and birthy bullshit to find YOUR birthy brilliance and best path forward? Click HERE to book in a FREE coffee chat to see if my VBAC mentoring program is a good fit for you. This program is life changing and will get you walking your VBAC journey with confidence and pizzazz.
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