The risks of Cesarean Surgery are often downplayed for a variety of reasons. Two common reasons are “we don’t want mom to feel bad” and “as long as you have a healthy baby, it doesn’t matter how the baby got here”.
There is a significant problem with these two phrases. They both assume you (the mom) aren’t smart enough to go back and question or think about your surgery and wonder how your pregnancy and birth process led up to that event. Most moms will question “how did I get here” at least once and many more will wonder what the consequences are of the surgery.
Here are some of the most common risks of having a cesarean:
- surgical adhesions
- infertility (secondary and voluntary)
- issues with the placenta in future pregnancies
- infection and rehospitalization
- pulmonary embolism
- uterine rupture – Contrary to belief, this is not a risk of having a vbac, it’s in fact a risk brought on by the first cesarean and any subsequent surgeries and can also happen in a first time mother.
- discrimination in future healthcare
- discrimination in future insurance coverage
- rare risks include death to the mother and/or infant, though as more cesareans are done, this risk RISES.
- early birth of the infant who was not ready to be born increasing future risks for health issues
- respiratory distress and future issues.
- autism in infant
Many sites like to separate those risks out as “risks to mom” and “risks to baby” but we choose to group them together because if the risks are to the baby, then Mom is also experiencing them firsthand and vice versa. And that leads us to other risks that we need to be aware of:
Family and Community Impact:
The impact of cesareans on families aren’t often measured. There are some studies on the impact of traumatic birth and some research being done on how women with cesareans experience more postpartum depression (PPD) even if it’s a scheduled cesarean. The real impact, though, isn’t simply in a diagnosable condition and finding treatment or therapy. The real impact is much deeper:
-Intimacy. Pregnancy and giving birth can often put stressors on relationships and when you add in a traumatic birth or major surgery, those small problems can magnify further. The physical recovery itself often stops intimate or sexual relationships for some time and these kinds of issues can lead to long-term problems for many couples.
-Trust. How does a mother really trust herself when her birth choices turned out so wrong? Or she trusted her care provider and then that relationship was damaged during the birthing process? How can she then trust the next doctor, future care providers, or even pediatricians to tell her the truth and respect her wishes?
-Finding your way in the community. What if a mom was going to have a natural birth and all her friends did? What if no one understands her feelings regarding her cesarean and aren’t willing to really listen or talk to her about her process? Often, moms of cesarean have to re-learn their place in what they believed was going to happen after birth. When caring for your infant is hard due to surgical recovery or you have toddlers to chase after while trying to recover, you can lose your place in playgroups, support systems, church and even work. Accommodating being a new mother is hard enough, after a cesarean, everything can be changed.
-Work. While there are women who are scheduling cesareans in order to make sure they get their time off, surgical recovery isn’t often an easy process. Some moms may have very physical jobs to return to that delays long-term recovery while other moms may have jobs they simply cannot take off from in order to recover. Finding your way through all the pitfalls of returning to work often overwhelms moms and leaving them feeling inadequate as they can’t quite do everything they thought they should be able to do.
These risks of cesarean recovery seem small but they are damaging to how a woman interacts with those around her. Even family and friends are often unaware of the internal dialogue a mom is having about her worthlessness, her inability to cope, her being unable to express how she feels about what happened with her birth. The impact on the community is vast and in many small, subtle ways. As she grows older, she will come into contact with other mothers and share her experiences. The entire process is lifelong and women do not forget their births. They are with us for the rest of our lives.
More on the long term risks of cesarean surgery here.