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What I wish every woman knew

Photo Credit: Kirsten Ferree.
A typical cesarean birth. In the United States, approximately 32% of babies are born by c-section every year. There is evidence, for various reasons, to suggest that many of them are unnecessary. 

I'm obviously not a doctor. Or a nurse. Or anything medical. I actually have a degree in English. But I also have personal experience, and a passion for childbirth and research. Any woman can do it - the facts, stats and figures are all right there, if only you will look for them.

It's been said that many women will do things like buy a new car or major appliance with more information than they will approach pregnancy and childbirth. I'm sure I was one of them, seven years and two cesareans ago. While some c-sections can't be avoided, it's hard to say that maybe mine could have been had I known more from the very beginning, instead of blindly letting my doctor "inform" me about such matters. What a joke!

On the birth boards I've frequented, I hear from so many women that seem to fall into one of several groups: those that care deeply about birth and are trying their best to inspire others to become informed; those who are scared and want more info because things just don't seem right, yet they're not totally prepared to go out on a limb and break the mold; and those who couldn't care less whether they have an induction or completely unnecessary cesarean for no reason. To many of these women, there is no such thing as an "unnecessary" c-section, and they are under the impression that no doctor, ever, would willingly put someone through such a thing. Maybe they are naive; maybe they think they know everything and are totally unwilling to bend when someone shows them proof otherwise. I find that, unfortunately, women in the last group tend to be the biggest spreaders of bad information, myths and misconceptions to women who are seeking help, advice or just an alternative.

Sometimes arrogance plays a role, on both sides of the coin. As a staunch birth advocate, I realize that every situation is different and try not to approach the subject with an air of superiority. Some birth advocates who think they know everything will dispense just as much misinformation and guilt tripping as someone who has no knowledge whatsoever. And conversely, sometimes our own pride and arrogance keep us from admitting that "a best friend who's been there" and doesn't want you to go through the same thing just might "know more" than your doctor. Case in point: a woman asking about induction was having second thoughts, and wondered if perhaps her induction could lead to problems if scheduled too early. Many of us chimed in and told her the risks, including an experienced labor and delivery nurse, who painted a less-than-rosy picture of reality for her. Mom apparently didn't like it, and made the comment, "Because you're not a doctor, I'm not going to listen to anything you say." I cringe, because no one likes to say or even think the words "I told you so" when an unheeded warning becomes reality.

Obviously none of this should be considered medical advice in the traditional sense, but rather just information that can be found anywhere if you look for it. It's ultimately up to two people whether this pertains to you or not: your doctor, and YOU. In a perfect world, ultimately you as the patient should have the final say. You should make that final decision with the most accurate, reliable information possible in order to make the most informed decision possible.

Whatever the case, you need to realize that "modern" obstetrics and hospital procedures, while sometimes necessary and life-saving, can also hinder women in the birthing process and actually make it harder for you to deliver your baby. Informing yourself is key - no matter what you decide or what happens - but you need to be a discerner of information and realize there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. If your doctor dismisses you and discourages you from doing research, it may be a red flag, especially if you're looking at knowledgable sources (not all are bad, not all are good). It can be a toss up and complex for sure. Things may not always go as planned, but it's important to remember that it's perfectly okay to feel a sense of grief or loss over things if they don't. No one can tell you how you should feel after such a life-changing event.