Home Birth Advocacy

How to Avoid the “Necessary” Cesarean Section

17 Comments 09 September 2011

I hear a different version of the same story time and time again: “I was planning a natural birth, but unfortunately, I ended up needing an emergency cesarean.”


This is an emotional topic.

No one wants to hear their necessary c-section could in fact have been avoided. No one wants to hear their necessary c-section wasn’t actually necessary at all.

The bummer is, many of the cesarean sections performed in hospitals today (one out of three women) are unnecessary; performed out of convenience rather than true emergency (although that’s not what they’d lead you to believe in the heat of the laboring moment).

A cesarean section rate over 32% is not necessary.

What is a laboring woman to do?

Large doses of adrenaline enter her system. Fear overwhelms her consciousness. The doctors say so. She wants to trust them. How then can she combat  such a powerful situation? Her birth plan seems a lost cause, given the metaphoric toss in the garbage.

How to avoid the “necessary” cesarean section:

The answer is simple…

Give birth at home.

Or a freestanding birth center.

You can even birth in the hospital. Just make it a priority to discuss your doctor or midwife’s c-section rate well before labor begins.

Don’t let falsies like ”failure to progress” or “CPD” determine the route of your birth.

Good luck ladies. Or better yet, make your own.

Your Comments

17 Comments so far

  1. Mama Wrench says:

    Not all “necessary” c-sections are failure to progress or suspected big baby or shoulder dystoxia or whathaveyou. My son had a nuchal cord so tight that he could not descend and when the waters broke during pushing his heart rate immediately began to decline. The cord was around his body so it was being compressed with every contraction. By the time they’d gone in, the placenta was already coming apart from the uterine wall. (This was after 17 hours of unmedicated labor.)

    Sometimes a necessary c-section is just that — necessary. A great many of the 32% of c-sections ARE unnecessary, I agree. But many unnecessary c-sections are also repeat c-sections, and often scheduled. And yes, this is a gross abuse of OB practice. But it doesn’t mean that any given woman walking into a hospital only has a 68% chance of vaginal birth. Her history and preferences and labor progress will play into it, too.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I know of 2 c-sections I felt were necessary, all the other the women have to wonder. It is sad a woman should have to wonder about that. I went into labor at 35 weeks with a posterior baby. I was planning a homebirth but at 35 weeks risked out to the hospital. I hoped they could stop labor and send me home so I could deliver at home in a week or so. Instead no labor wouldn’t stop. I later learned if the OB had listened to me my baby was posterior she would have done a c-section. (I delivered him in under 3 pushes so I had no trouble with delivering him.) This was the first time in my life I was glad I wasn’t listened to.

  3. sarah says:

    I loved my necessary c-section! Because of it, my happy, healthy, two year old is playing at my feet. I did everything “right”. I had a home birth that ended in a transport due to fetal distress. Please stop making women feel guilty for doing what was best for them and their babies.

    • Wendy says:

      This article was in no way meant to make anyone feel guilty, honestly if a woman feels guilty it’s instictual and rarely because of an outside force. It’s wonderful that you ‘loved’ your c-section, but to advocate in any way that the c-section rate in this country is anything but ridiculously out ofcontrol is in itself ridiculous. I had a c-section with my first and three very successful at home v-bacs, I hope you will get to experience that kind of love for your body someday, because trust me, it’s no where near the same as being sliced open and full of drugs :(

  4. Very good and concise advise and a good way to know if the c-section is truly needed.

    Like in my case where I plan to birth at home, the tub was ready, the midwife and doula were there, I had been in labor for over 28 hours and when things went suddenly very wrong there was no doubt that the frantic call to 911, ambulance ride and resulting C-section could not have been avoided.

  5. Staceyjw says:

    CPD isn’t real! Even after 4hours of pushing, 2 of laboring down, and countless position changes, my son refused to decend at all. I guess I should have kept on pushing until I prolapsed something, or my son was in a lot of distress- then I couldve known my Cs was needed! Who cares about the damage to me or my son, I would have known the Cs was really necessary and that’s more important. (snark)

    CS is a preventative procedure. When your kid comes out healthy and pink it does not mean you had an unneeded CS, it means you caught the problem before it got bad enough to cause permanent damage. Unless you have a crystal ball, you have no idea how it would have ended without the Cs.

    Most women get a CS because the risks of not doing so (possible death and disability for babe, harm to moms body from VB or condition like eclampsia) outweigh the minimal risk of the CS. Most moms won’t wait until babes near dead, or your body’s harmed, before getting a CS, as getting a healthy baby is more important than a VB. Better safe than sorry.

    And if you need a CS at home, for an emergent problem, like abruption, rupture, cord prolapse, good luck getting to the hospital in time.

    • Wendy says:

      sad really :( that you will probably never know how beautiful birth actually is because you did not have the support you really needed when you were attempting to birth your child. Why any woman would get a csection is totally beyond me, unless it truly is a life or death emergency. Check the stats on how many women die from this operation, and then tell me it’s the safe option…

  6. Meghann says:

    I had an emergency c-section because my son’s head was getting squished in the birth canal and I hadn’t progressed in two house & his heart rate was dropping. The epidural they gave me didn’t work and they put me completely under. I missed everything, when I woke up my son was already in my room cuddling w/ my husband. I want to do a home birth but I’m so scared of this happening again.

    • Wendy says:

      Meghann, whetever you do do not give up on yourself, find a SUPPORTIVE care provider, and I promise you, you will not have another experience like you had the first time. I’ve been there and I know. Trust in your body, your baby, and yourself :)

  7. Lauren says:

    Absolutely, stay home. That way, when your child’s heart rate drops, you won’t know about it and you won’t be afraid! CPD IS real. There are true failure to progress stories. When I was in my internship, a woman had been in labour for 48 hours of solid hard labor. She was exhausted. She couldn’t sleep because the contractions were too strong. The baby hadn’t descended at all and she wasn’t dialating. She didn’t have any pit or an epi. True failure to progress exists.

  8. tara says:

    So when a woman tells you of her c/s you sigh in her face and tell her it was unnecessary? How do you know it was? Or do you just assume it was?

  9. Sara says:

    BTDT. Had to transfer to the hospital to get the cesarean anyway. CPD is real.

  10. Kate says:

    I was transferred from a freestanding birth center by my midwives and ended up with a cesarean. You can’t always make your own luck.

    I am really tired of the judgment from other mamas who were lucky enough to have successful out of hospital births. Yes, the c-section rate is too high, and the problem lies mostly with hospital policies and physicians and insurance companies… Work to change that, don’t blame the mothers. I found your post trite and insensitive.

  11. A says:

    I’m a mom who will stand up and say that I believe my section was unnecessary. And can we all agree that Caesareans ARE necessary sometimes, but we don’t need to couch every statement about how we don’t think they’re ALL necessary with that disclaimer? Obviously they are necessary sometimes. But when I want to complain or discuss about how I was treated and how my birth went, I want to focus on the unnecessary interventions that led to my unnecessary Caesarean…NOT to make anybody feel bad about a truly necessary section! Nobody wants to do away with C-sections entirely. A C-section rate below 10% corresponds with a higher death rate for mother and baby…but so does a C-section rate that’s higher than necessary. Does that not scare any of the previous commenters?

    Unfortunately, I live in a place where home birth is not legally an option, and there are no birth centres. So I had to have a hospital birth with a midwife. Only it turns out that she was worst of all with giving me things I didn’t want, nor ask for!

    And then I ended up with a c-section, and they made us all feel that it was very necessary. But as I reflect on what happened and discuss it with the people who were there (including doctors), I’ve come to realize that I’m part of that percentage that could have easily avoided a section. And I’m mad about it.

    • S says:

      I, too, an mad about my c-section and want to be allowed to be mad about it without backlash of those who had lifesaving c-sections. Mine was truly the doctor wanting me to “get on with it, already” and played with fear tactics on me while emotionally exhausted. We are not trying to make anyone fell bad about doingwhat IS necessary, we’re simply not wanting anyone to fell the pain and regret of giving in when NOT necessary.

  12. Meg says:

    I had a c/s and went on to have a homebirth with my second and hopefully with #3 who is growing in my belly. I say I had an unnecessary cesarean. But at the time they actually cut me open, it was necessary. The problem: the cesareans are very much necessary in a lot of the situations…it’s the interventions that cause the need for the c/s that were unnecessary. There is a very good chance that my son could have died had I not received the nasty cut, but had I just had the strength to avoid the scare tactics that talked me into receiving all those interventions, there is no doubt that we would both me alive and healthy with a natural, vaginal birth.

  13. Wendy says:

    I had a completely unnecessary c-section with my first, due to his heart rate decreasing and I wasn’t progressing fast enough. When they sliced me open and yanked him out of my uterus the cord was around his neck and they said ‘SEE, we just KNEW something was wrong’, as if up to that point they were looking for a true and valid reason for the surgery I was undergoing. I knew that I was being played for a fool, period. With my second child I searched high and low until I could find and OB that would perform VBAC, as many of you know it isn’t easy. I was at this point willing to give birth in my closet at home before I was cut open like a pig to slaughter again. I found one, only he induced me at 38 weeks with the devils drug pitocin, epidural and the works, no moving, no walking yadda yadda. After 72 hours and threatening to leave the hospital if they were going to force a C-section on me my beautiful, tiny, not quite ready to be born daughter entered the world, thanks to a vacuum…of course I am thinking will I ever have the birth my instincts are telling me I am supposed to have? Well, you can bet I wised up, took the one MAJOR factor keeping me from giving my kids the best start to life out of the equation, the hospital BYE BYE, the medical staff, BYE BYE, and had my last two at home. Do I need to tell you it was beyond my wildest dreams in the best way you can imagine? NO, I don’t, because that’s just how it is. I gave birth the way I was made to give birth, and there is nothing more educating, empowering, or strengthening than that. I truly believe that fear plays the most negative role in birth, and though it is natural for a woman to be afraid, it hurts after all, to have a ‘support’ system that feed and induces fear is tragic, and more than counterproductive. You’re told you needed it, of course you are, but listen to your guts, they will most likely tell you different. At least this is my experience. I will advocate for non clinical, natural birth for the rest of my life, even though I will have no more babies. Women need to know. Great article, shame on all you naysayers…

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