Birth is one of the most natural occurrences in life, yet the way babies are born has changed dramatically in the last century.
While it’s estimated that 10 to 15 percent of births medically require a C-section, which is also the optimal rate suggested by the World Health Organization, the C-section rate in the United States is at 32.9 percent. In fact, C-sections are the most common major surgery performed in the U.S.
Medical reasons to have a C-section include baby being in an abnormal position, fetal distress, bleeding, placenta problems, stalled labor, high blood pressure and having multiples.
C-sections pose a risk for moms and babies in both the short and long term. Short-term complications include infections, bleeding, a ruptured uterus or blood clots. In the long term, women who’ve had C-sections may have problems with infertility, a greater risk for placenta problems in subsequent pregnancies and are more likely to have future C-sections. Babies born via C-section have higher rates of respiratory issues and risks for diseases later in life such as obesity, allergies and autoimmune disorders.
Vaginal deliveries, on the other hand, are associated with fewer complications and risks. Plus, the hospital stay is shorter and recovery is quicker than a C-section, which is considered major abdominal surgery. In addition, there are postpartum benefits for both mom and baby including the release of oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone, and baby is introduced to bacteria while going through the birth canal, which is beneficial to their developing immune systems.
In an effort to enhance mothers’ childbirth experience and safety, reduce unnecessary C-sections and increase the rate of vaginal deliveries, Ariadne Labs – a joint center of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – has established “Team Birth Project.” And, Overlake was chosen as one of four sites to pilot the project.
“This research project’s aim is to look at how we can improve the birth experience at our hospital, and if our experience can help other hospitals in the future. The hope is to see a measureable improvement in appropriate care, communication and understanding between patients and their care team. This project can make a difference to our patient’s birth experience,” says Margie Bridges, DNP, ARNP-BC RNC-OB.
Although C-sections may sometimes be medically necessary and can be lifesaving procedures, many can be avoided. It’s important to keep an open dialogue with your physician or midwife before and during the birth process.