Women Can Take Charge of Their Pregnancies

It's a picture as old as humanity. A woman is giving birth to her baby.

In the modern world, this simple scene is now acted out beneath the pulse of fluorescent lights and accompanied by the probe of medical instruments. Now, with electronic fetal monitoring and epidurals, technology has entered the womb. And cesareans (C-sections) are readily available.

Is it good or bad?

That depends on the mother and the child. Sometimes it's medically necessary, such as when the mother has hypertension or pre-eclampsia. But there are times when such procedures may be unnecessary, and some experts worry that women may rashly be making choices without fully understanding the risks and results of medications for C-sections or of the procedure itself.
The C-section is now the number one surgical procedure performed in the United States. Twenty nine percent of babies were born by C-section in 2004, up from 27.5 percent in 2003. In 1975, that number was only 5 percent.

A cesarean delivery can be a life-saving procedure for the mother and her child. However, C-sections are major abdominal surgery that puts the mother and her infant at increased medical risks, including infections, hemorrhage, transfusions, injury to other organs, anesthesia complications, and a risk of death for the mother two to four times greater than a vaginal birth, according to Nicette Jukelevics, M.A., I.C.C.E., a childbirth educator, speaker and author on cesarean birth and vaginal birth after cesarean.

Long-term complications in subsequent pregnancies and labors include risk for uterine rupture, which is a potentially life-threatening tear through the thickness of the uterine wall at the site of a prior C-section. It also can occur in women who have never had a C-section but have weak uterine muscles after several pregnancies, excessive use of labor-inducing agents, prior surgical procedure on the uterus or mid-pelvic use of forceps to pull the baby out.

Maureen Corry, executive director of Maternity Center Association, a nonprofit health organization dedicated to the needs and interests of childbearing women and their families, does not advocate one method over another. But she says it’s important to look at the facts before labor.

“ The best advice is to be an informed decision-maker,” Corry said.



Content courtesy of HealthAtoZ (www.healthatoz.com). This article was reviewed June 2006, by Edith D. Gurewitsch, M.D.,Assistant Professor, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD.