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« C-Sections in the News and Maternal Request Poll Results | An American Birth: Induction by Breakfast, C-Section by Dinner »

Poll: How Many Maternal Request C-Section Moms Do You Know?

I have a question. How many women do you personally know who requested a cesarean? I’m not talking about elective repeat cesareans, nor am I wondering how many women you know who have been scared or coerced into surgery by a doctor.

To frame the question, I know one woman. It was within the last five years and I haven’t seen her since she had her baby, but I remember how she used to talk about having kids. She was so disgusted by the whole process of childbirth that for her it would have been a huge positive to find a doctor who would accommodate her request for a c-section. When I heard that she sought a c-section, I was surprised. “People do that?” I asked our mutual friend who told me about her request.

I find the Listening to Mothers Survey (pdf), which interviewed nearly 1,600 women and found that only one had requested a cesarean, to be accurate based on my life experience. What have you found?




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Reader Comments (16)

I voted "none" but I have a qualification. I know several women who had what I consider to be medically unjustifiable C-sections which they "chose" -- I daresay they would be considered "elective" C-sections if they were included in a research study -- but they would consider them to be medically indicated. My husband's cousin had her first baby by C-section in the late pre-term period (I think for suspected preeclampsia); her doctor would have "allowed" her a "Cinderella VBAC" (you know the kind IF she goes into labor prior to her scheduled C-section date, which is at 38 weeks, and IF she does this and IF she doesn't do that); then her latest baby was also born by C-section because her first two were. She could have been a 2VBA1C imo, but she trusted her doctor.

Another friend had some health problems during her first pregnancy (she was overweight to start with, developed high blood pressure and gestational diabetes), was induced which of course failed and ended in a C-section (I think she had general anesthesia, but I don't know if it was because it was a true emergency or some other factor). During her second pregnancy, her health problems were kept under control, but she always had that fear of a repeat of her first labor, which was scary to her and difficult to recover from. Judging from some of what she said during her second pregnancy, and the choice of words she used and her doctor used, I would say that her doctor pushed her to choose a C-section. I don't blame her for doing it, but I think it was medically unnecessary.

Actually -- in typing the above, I forgot my SIL who chose a C-section for her second after her terribly long and difficult labor with her first (planned home birth) which ended in a C-section. When she went into labor the second time, she changed her mind about attempting a VBAC and drove to the hospital for a C-section.

Finally, I have a friend who says she doesn't think she'll get pregnant again, but that if she does, she's thinking about having a C-section. Her first was a planned home birth, and her 9.5lb baby had difficulty fitting under her pubic bone, but she was ultimately successful, without a tear. Her second was a planned hospital birth (she developed heart problems requiring medication that probably would have precluded home birth anyway, but they lived in a different state as well); she had an epidural and a lot of complications (including losing the baby's heartbeat a couple of times and getting an amnio-infusion). Although this baby was about 8lb, she was posterior, and also had difficulty getting under the pubic bone. My friend tore badly towards the front, and had a very difficult recovery. She said that she'd rather have a C-section were she to get pregnant again than go through all that. She doesn't see that the interventions she had during labor may have caused the problems -- the epidural causing low maternal blood pressure and the baby's heart to go weird; the AROM causing the baby's heartbeat to go away; lying on her back while all comfy with the epidural causing the baby to be posterior; the baby's persistent posterior position causing the tearing. She is convinced that every subsequent birth will be like this, so she wants to avoid all the fear (with the fetal heartbeat problems; and the baby didn't start breathing for some time, and everyone was worried) and all the complications, so sees a C-section as an easy way out -- it just takes an hour and you're done, no breaking the water, no disappearing of heartbeat, the abdominal incision can't be that much worse than tearing around the clitoris, etc. And talking to her does no good. So I keep my mouth shut.

March 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

I must be in the minority because I know far too many women who sign up for c-sections for what I consider to be totally invalid reasons. One co-worker requested a c-section because she was having twins (after she already had a vaginal birth years earlier) - then when she got pregnant again she never even considered VBAC. She actually went into labor on her own both times, no medicine necessary, and still chose to check straight into the OR instead of a labor room.

Many of the primary c-sec moms I've come into contact with go straight for the repeat C - never even stopping to consider VBAC. Does that mean it's "Maternally Elected" or does that mean their doctor never told them they had a better choice?

When I've spoken in front of groups about my VBAC advocacy, I get a lot of young women telling me that they always assumed they'd just ask for a c-section and "get it over with." Some change their minds after hearing what I have to say - some don't.

I think many women think that having a c-section makes their birth "more important" than an uncomplicated vaginal birth. You know... they like having the story to tell - it's always the same - "baby and I nearly died, we were in so much danger, his heart rate was dropping, they had to do an EMERGENCY c-section." It's all very dramatic, and important. I saw a woman on one of the message boards say "My Not-So-Typical Birth Story" - then proceed to explain the exact same scenario we all saw in the BoBB cartoon. Pitocin, epidural, pitocin, epidural, low fetal heart tones, OMG "emergency" c-section. She thought she had some incredible story to tell. The only thing incredible about it was the it happens to thousands of women a day in this country.

Mine was classified as an "emergency" c-section too. I think they all are, actually - at least all the ones that aren't planned months in advance. But the doctor announced my c/s at 5 pm and didn't start cutting into me until 7 pm. Couldn't have been that much of an "emergency."

March 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

Kathy, Birth centers are like Cinderella home births, then! They're great if you ___, and if you ___ and make sure you don't have ___, and so forth.

You know what I say to friends that don't choose VBAC? Nothing. I figure that they are happy with their decision and have faith in their doctor. Faith in something is a positive and it's really common to have loads of faith in Medicine, Science, Technology and Doctors. My friends all know that I'm a no-epidural kinda gal (for myself) and I figure they know where to find me if they want more info. I know you know how I feel-- "necessary" is subjective. If everyone feels something was necessary regardless of whether there was any medical evidence to support the decision, then it's time to move on. We'll just keep picking away at the overall cultural and medical attitude toward birth and encouraging people to question commonly held beliefs. It's hard to see friends struggling with surgical recovery, but now that my kids are getting older, I can do more postpartum "doula-ing" and watching their older kids while they recover.

With so many c-sections, I think we all need to step up our efforts (personally and at an institutional level) in making sure our post-surgical loved ones get extra support. It blows my mind that women have babies cut out of their abdomens and are home in three days trying to juggle breastfeeding, healing, new motherhood and older kids jumping all over them. Talk about Supermoms!

March 30, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

TFB, I was looking more for the true non-medical indication c-sections. Elective repeat c-section has perceived medical benefits in this climate. I'm more curious about how many women people know that just were not going to end their pregnancy with vaginal birth from the get-go. No judgment from me... just curious.

March 30, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

I think I offer my two cents to those who don't ask because I wish someone had done the same for me. I believed, and I mean BELIEVED in the OB and the hospital and the nurses, and walked away from that car crash with such severe emotional trauma that I'm still fighting with it. I wish someone, anyone, had told me there was an alternative - that there was information out there that didn't jive with what the doc was saying. If only.........

But I learned the hard way. I'd like to help other women avoid "the hard way" if at all possible. And you know what Gloria Steinem said: "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."

March 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

I only know of one woman who plans on having a totally elective medical cesarean whenever she gets pregnant (getting married in a few months--kids to come later). I know her mind may change--but it may not. Her mentality is and has always been "childbirth is scary, painful and unpredictable"(...and a cesarean is NOT any of those??)

Her mom also told her "horror stories" about her labors and labors of her friends. Her mom thinks a scheduled c/s is a good idea too. It amazes me when women want THEIR OWN DAUGHTERS signing up for an unnecessary surgery that has a mortality rate 3-4 times higher than that of a vaginal birth. Um..twilight zone...

March 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermichele

TFB, you know what? You're right. In hindsight, I am so grateful for everyone (one older woman at work in particular) who planted seeds of normalcy regarding birth when I was pregnant. Even those questions that didn't sink in at the time, like "have you considered a birth center?" later resonated so clearly. Same with bedsharing, breastfeeding and other things that ultimately worked great for us.

March 30, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

I had a patient once, a while back (few years ago). first baby. having a c/section. i asked her why "because i don't want anything coming out of me down there" yes, her dr agreed to do it.

that was the one purely elective one i remember, but, so many ppl choose one for unecessary reasons-b/c the dr convinced them the baby was too big to come out (first baby, sometimes), or b/c they were tired of a very long induction and asked for csection. Many are supposedly medical, or from failed induction.

March 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRose

oh, and i know a ob/gyn resident who is not pregnant or married who said when she gets pregnant,s he's getting a "cut here" tattoo on her abdomen. she's very vain, and not too bright.

March 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRose


Ugh. Bleh. That's just not funny and I laugh at almost anything.

March 30, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill
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