Part | 01
A few years ago, I gave birth to my first daughter, Jett, via planned Cesarean delivery. During my last ultrasound of the pregnancy, we learned that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, so I was told I had to have a C-section for that reason.
I can’t say I was disappointed by the news. I wasn’t exactly excited about a vaginal delivery, and honestly, my life was so hectic, that the idea of scheduling my delivery was actually kind of nice. I had been so busy traveling for work, that when my husband Paul and I found out we were pregnant, it was a shock — we’d barely seen each other that month.
I’m admittedly a type-A personality who has always been used to being in control of my life. Before I became pregnant with Jett, I had suffered two miscarriages. After each one I thought, “What did I do wrong? How did I cause this?” It was demoralizing.
So, the predictability of a planned delivery worked for me. I had a date. I had a time. I knew exactly when I was going to be giving birth. I wasn’t in that limbo phase, anxiously waiting for labor to spontaneously start.
Everything went according to plan. I went into the hospital on the morning of March 8, 2013, and a couple hours later, welcomed a healthy baby girl into the world. The surgery went smoothly and there were no complications.
After Jett was born, she completely changed and brought new meaning to our lives. But my schedule was just as chaotic. There was even a period of time when I was FedExing containers of my breast milk from the road, back home to feed my daughter.
So, when I became pregnant with my second daughter, there was no question — I would have another scheduled C-section. But unlike my first delivery, there was no actual medical necessity for this one.
Through my reporting for this series, I learned that my first C-section and my preference for a second were a part of a major nationwide trend. In just a decade, the rate of C-sections performed in the United States shot up over 50%. It reached an all-time high in 2009 at 32.9%, and has stayed within the 32% range ever since. To put that into perspective, the World Health Organization says it should ideally be closer to 10-15%.
Health care professionals have identified many different factors that have contributed to the rise in C-sections, including the fact that more women are delaying motherhood into their 40s, as well as the rise in chronic health conditions, like obesity, that can put a pregnancy into the high-risk category. But along with the rise of the general C-section rate, which includes those surgeries that are medically necessary, the C-section rate among low-risk pregnancies also rose by about 50% in that same 10-year period.
Age Rate of Cesarean
These C-sections, and especially the ones among them that are happening in the absence of any medical emergency, have come under increased scrutiny among medical professionals and public health officials in their efforts to get our nation’s C-section rate, and health care spending, under control. C-sections are on average, 50% more expensive than vaginal births, and cost us billions every year.
C-sections also come with a host of potential health risks to both mothers and babies. Something I, unfortunately had to learn first-hand, the hard way.
On June 6, 2016, I gave birth to my second daughter, Ray. Unlike my first C-section incision, this one didn’t seem to be healing as quickly. In fact, I was experiencing a lot more pain than I did with my first, and at one point, fluid began leaking from the incision.
I had developed an extremely painful infection and it was awful. I was prescribed antibiotics, which fortunately seemed to kill the infection, but it took a whole month for the wound to completely close.
My husband, who is a doctor himself, suspects that I may have picked up the infection in the hospital. I was never really aware of just how rampant hospital infections are. And while I spent so much time talking to people about the benefits of a vaginal birth versus the potential risks of an elective C-section for this series, I also thought, “It could never happen to me.”
In all honesty, I regret it.
I’m grateful that my baby’s OK, and that I’m OK now, but it was not easy. I hope that when women consider having an elective C-section, they really, really take the time to understand the potential consequences.