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C-section - truth and myths

Are you getting ready for childbirth? Are you planning a natural birth, but you know from other women's experience that is not always possible? Or maybe you already have had a date for a C-section scheduled due to obstetric or non-obstetric indications? Regardless of what type of childbirth you plan, learn more about the C-section.
Edited by LOVI | 15 March 2014

1. After a C-section, a mother does not have milk

MYTH Unfortunately, a widely spread one. Woman's breasts and body prepare for milk production already during pregnancy, and not during childbirth. This is signalled by physical changes in breasts, which are swollen already during the first weeks of pregnancy, and at its end they start to produce colostrum in the form of a transparent or slightly yellowish fluid leaking out or appearing when the breast is squeezed.

What is true is that lactation can be delayed following a C-section.  Sometimes, when a C-section is necessary for medical reasons on the baby's side and the baby is moved to ICU, lactation must be stimulated by extracting milk manually or with a pump.

At the beginning it will just be a few drops, but this is how much your baby needs, as for several hours after the birth he will use the energy resources stored while he was in his mum's belly. These first drops of colostrum are important for improving the immunity of the newborn baby, by colonizing the baby's esophagus and digestive system with beneficial bacteria, as a part of preventive measures for allergic diseases and asthma.

2. After a C-section,  a "skin to skin" contact is not possible

MYTH Provided the baby can function independently and does not have to be put into an incubator for medical reasons, and his mother received the epidural or has woken up from the general anesthesia and is conscious and aware, the skin to skin contact is possible and recommended. In such cases, kangaroo care can help to stimulate lactation and enable colonization of the baby's skin with mother's friendly bacteria.

3. After a C-section you must wait some time before getting pregnant again.

TRUE The C-section is a surgery during which the abdomen is open: skin, muscles, peritoneum and uterine muscle, the baby and the placenta taken out, and then the wound is closed by suturing the abdominal integuments. The same "components" of you belly are employed during the next pregnancy, when the uterus enlarges, and this is why some time is needed for the surgical scar to heal. Therefore, it is recommend to plan next childbirth at least 18 months after the previous one.

4. When the first pregnancy ended with a C-section, then you cannot give birth naturally to the next baby.

MYTH A C-section during the first pregnancy is not an indication for a C-section during the second one.  With a transverse section, a risk that the sutured integuments separate is very low. However, each time the decision is made individually, depending on the case, and a woman is encouraged to attempt a natural childbirth. An exception is a situation when the next pregnancy occurs quickly after a C-section or when a woman had a C-section twice before.

5. There is a risk of suture separation during physical exercise

TRUE The C-section is a surgery, and just like after any other, the medical recommendations include avoidance of overstraining, and rest. The first 5–6 weeks after the procedure are crucial, as the sutures are still fresh and the sutured abdominal integuments can separate. Women after a C-section should particularly avoid carrying heavy loads and lifting loads from a floor from a position other than squatting, as well as physical exercises activating abdominal muscles.

6. C-section is better for a baby

TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

With a C-section, the risks of the umbilical cord looping, perinatal asphyxia and twisting or fracturing of shoulder or hip bones are low; the procedure often saves the baby's life in the case of irregular pulse or incorrect, e.g, transverse, presentation. This way, the C-section protects against complications of the natural childbirth that are very dangerous for the baby, and frequently worrying his parents.

On the other hand, during the C-section, the baby, not yet quite prepared for that, is suddenly taken out from his mum's belly, and the water environment is suddenly replaced with a gaseous one, a situation extremely shocking and stressful for the baby. Contrary to the journey through the birth canal, where pressure activates senses and sensory cells of the baby, where amniotic fluid is naturally "squeezed" out of the baby's lungs, and the baby's skin is colonized with bacterial flora from the mother's vagina, the C-section is encumbered with an increased risk of a neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, skin and food allergies, asthma, and problems with sensory integration.

7. C-section is better for a mum

TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

A C-section allows to avoid pain related to a natural childbirth, gives a psychical comfort of avoiding possible complications of a natural childbirth, including asphyxia caused by the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby.

On the other hand, a C-section is a serious surgery with opening of the abdomen, which can involve various complications, such as circulatory collapse, damaging of uterine blood vessels, damaging of the urinary bladder or intestines, significant blood loss, thrombosis or wound infection. During the C-section a risk of complications to the mother is higher than during a natural birth.

8. C-section does not hurt

MYTH The procedure itself is performed in anesthesia, pain starts after its effect stops. A wound on the belly is painful during each movement, at the beginning, raising and sitting up is very difficult. On the first days after the C-section, each use of the abdominal muscles, including laughter, sneezing or passing stool, is very painful.

9. After a C-section it takes longer for a woman to recover

TRUTH The recovery period after the C-section is longer, the pain in the surgical wound lasts longer, also headaches and general weakness can occur. Furthermore, after the C-section, a mum cannot overstrain herself and carry heavy loads. You should prepare for that and arrange for help in caring after the newborn.

10.  A C-section guarantees comfortable sexual life after childbirth

MYTH Although natural childbirth usually causes some damage to woman's genitals, with perineum tear or episiotomy, a C-section does not guarantee satisfying sex after childbirth. Both natural childbirth and a C-section are followed by a puerperium, during which sexual intercourses are not recommended. After that period, woman's libido is affected by various factors, including stress, weariness, hormones, breastfeeding, a need for emotional support, acceptance of changes in her body, and thus it is not true that after a C-section woman's libido is higher as there were no mechanical intervention in her perineum area. Moreover, sometimes we see opposite opinions saying that natural childbirth "unblocked" or made woman's vagina more sensitive to future sexual sensations.

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