What the heck is Cesarean Awareness Month?

I’ve seen on several blogs lately that April is Cesarean Awareness Month, which sounds pretty cool on the surface of it.  Let’s talk about our C-sections!  Let’s share our experiences (here’s mine).  Let’s talk about realities versus perceptions, the good (babies!) and the bad (weird numb incision sites).  Let’s commiserate about how those pneumatic anti-blood-clot things they make you wear on your legs in the recovery room are really loud and obnoxious.

There’s just one little problem.

Turns out that’s not what Cesarean Awareness Month is about.

No, some quick Googling taught me that CAM is put on by a group called ICAN (the “International Cesarean Awareness Network”), to whom I will not link.  ICAN’s mission is to reduce the number of C-sections performed.  Their “educational” material is all about how risky C-sections are*, how to avoid an “unnecessary” C-section**, and how to get over the disappointment that of course you’ll experience if you have one.***

They mean “Cesarean awareness” in the same way that other groups talk about “breast cancer awareness,” as though C-sections were a disease that needed to be eradicated.  They even have a ribbon for it!  (It’s burgundy, in case you’re curious.)

Ew.

Ugh.

No.

Don’t do that.

Don’t hang a ribbon for me because I was born by C-section.  Don’t hang a ribbon for me because I gave birth by C-section.  Don’t act like either of those is a terrible, terrible thing that makes me unhealthy and traumatized.  Don’t act like I didn’t make the safest choice for my baby, and that my mom didn’t make the safest choice for me.

Seriously.

 

*All things being equal, yes, surgery is riskier (to the mom).  All things are not always equal.  It’s not like vaginal birth is risk-free, either.

**Can we please stop with the false narrative that most Cesareans are unnecessary, and instead focus on actually improving maternal health?

***And can we please, please stop acting like C-sections are an inherently traumatizing experience?

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7 thoughts on “What the heck is Cesarean Awareness Month?

  1. That seems silly. There is nothing wrong with having a C-section. They can and do save lives. However, the rate of increase for c-sections performed in the US far exceeds recommendations by WHO and other organizations and other nations which have far lower mother and infant mortality rates. There are many reasons for this, but I do believe there is something in the idea that there is some pressure to preform a C-section based on dubious criteria (time laboring, multiples, etc.) I’ve had friends whose doctors pressured them into C-sections when there was no medical reason, other than they’d been laboring a while. Those that were able to labor on their own delivered without a problem. (Again, these were women who had no medical issues and no complications. They’d simply been laboring for what ever time limit the hospital had set.) I also did a lot of research on birth, and opted for a water birth at a birth center with a midwife and doula. I had a great experience. However, I know that this is not the right experience for every woman. If I had had a C-section, I would have been emotionally affected because I wanted to deliver vaginally and naturally. Since I was at a free standing birth center, it also probably would have indicated some emergency for either my daughter or me, which would also have been traumatic. But that’s my experience. Do I look down on other women for having C-sections, and assume they would be traumatized? No. That’s stupid. So, I don’t think we need to create an awareness month or ribbon. But I do think we should evaluate the C-section rates and specifically the US business model of birth and delivery. Asking questions is always a good idea.

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    • I agree with you that the US medical system has pressures that push us in the direction of more C-sections. (We are extremely liability-averse, for instance, which a major reason why it can be hard to have a VBAC even if you are a good candidate.)

      The WHO numbers, though—they’re pretty much made up, and even the WHO acknowledges that. Several worldwide studies out this year have shown that the minimum safe level is more like 20%.

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    • I realized that I have more to say in response here, so bear with me.

      1. I know it feels good to imagine yourself as an elite who has “done a lot of research,” but please don’t do that on my blog. Assume that I have done at least as much “research” as you.

      2. I recommend reading my post “Stop acting like C-sections are always terrible” for more perspective on how I approach this. C-sections are not intrinsically traumatizing, period. That doesn’t mean that women’s perceptions of trauma or disappointment related to them are not valid. Birth can be scary, birth can be traumatic, birth can be wonderful—or it can be all of those things.

      3. I think what fundamentally rubs me the wrong way about your comment is that you’re starting with a base assumption that C-sections are bad. Yes, I know you say they save lives, but you say that as though it only applies in rare hypothetical situations that must certainly not apply to anyone you know.

      What I’m asking is this: don’t start with the assumption that C-sections are bad. There’s a fair amount of evidence that they have been overused in the US, but that does not make them bad as a thing, nor does it mean that *most* CS are ergo unnecessary.

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  2. There seems to be some confusion. I said I also did research. Not I did research and you didn’t, or that my research invalidates yours. I respect your research and your status as a scientist, which is why I shared that I did research. I was attempting to establish that I wasn’t just some fruitloop going off about what Dr. Google said based on a 20 minute internet search. I started off with saying that such an awareness month is silly because C-Sections save lives. Which means I respect C-sections as a medical procedure. Just like I respect any other major surgery or medical procedure. To be perfectly clear, I do not believe C-sections are bad, the doctors who perform them are bad, or the women who receive them are bad. However I do believe that pressuring women to have an unnecessary C-section is problematic. Just as it would be wrong of me to pressure or guilt a woman into having a “natural” (whatever that means, since birth is an inherently natural process) birth would be problematic. I know dozens of women who have had C-sections. Many of those women and their children would not be here if not for this procedure. I am so thankful that they were able to have C-sections. However, among those dozens, there are several, perhaps a third, who did not need the procedure, but were told they did. I’ve read your blog posts about your birth story and C-sections, and found them enlightening and empowering. I never said that C-sections are traumatizing. I said that for ME, and me alone, that it would have been emotionally difficult because of my personal goals. And emotionally difficult or not, if I or my child had been in true medical distress of any kind, I would have kissed the surgeon who performed the C-section, and counted myself lucky that it was an option. In sort what I was saying I agree with you that there is no need to bring awareness to C-sections like they are a plague that blights the birth industry. However, it would be good if we educated new moms so they knew when they needed a C-section rather than when it was convenient for the medical industry. I hope that clears things up.

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    • The reason your original comment got me all worked up is that it was full of stereotypical natural-birth-advocate talking points (old WHO recommendations, mortality rates, pushy doctors). Many of those talking points aren’t necessarily true or are outdated. There’s a big difference between perinatal and infant mortality rates, for instance. (There’s a good summary with references on that here: http://whatifsandfears.blogspot.com/2015/02/infant-mortality-and-maternal-mortality.html). That you felt the need to jump in on this post and say all of those things, well… it got you lumped in with a certain crowd.

      I’d love to see a focus on maternal health that treated *health* as the goal, rather than the surgery rate. With lower obesity, heart disease, etc. and greater availability of prenatal care, I think we would see the CS rate go down, because they would be less necessary. (Maybe that’s a topic for a future blog post.)

      With regard to my own experience—I think the rate of Really Bad Things happening with vaginal breech birth is something like 1 in 110. So chances are, my CS didn’t save anyone’s life. But does that mean it wasn’t necessary? (I know you aren’t saying it was specifically, just posing a general question.)

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  3. Pingback: Then what should we do about the C-section rate? | crazy grad mama

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