Amanda requested a caesarean when she was pregnant with her first baby. Here she explains how she came to the decision, and her advice to other women thinking about an elective c-section.
“I wanted to remove the element of risk that comes with an emergency”
I knew before I was pregnant that I would want to give birth through elective c-section. I wanted to feel calm and comfortable knowing everything was planned in advance, and avoid the possibility of going through labour and then having to have an emergency caesarean.
I’m a vet, so I perform surgeries myself, and I know that when surgery is planned in advance it almost always goes smoothly. I’m aware that elective procedures have risks as well, but when it’s planned you remove the added element of risk that comes with a stressful emergency.
I also lead an active lifestyle and wanted to avoid tearing, which happens to the vast majority of women who give birth vaginally, as well as urinary incontinence. Through my research I found that although there is still a risk of urinary incontinence after a c-section, it’s very much reduced by avoiding going into labour in the first place.
I would like to experience a vaginal birth if I knew that it was going to go smoothly, that there weren’t going to be any complications for me or the baby, and that my recovery would be good – but the risks of a vaginal birth seemed too great.
“I talked to my obstetrician about the risks and benefits”
When I was four or five months pregnant, I brought up with my midwife that I wanted to have a c-section. She referred me to an obstetrician to talk through my options.
The obstetrician I saw was really great and helped me go through the benefits and risks of both vaginal births and caesareans. In particular, she emphasised the risk of placenta accreta if I were to have another baby in the future, and explained that the risks of giving birth increase the more c-sections a woman has.
I took it all into account, did more online research into the risks of each option, and talked to family and friends who’d had different kinds of birth experiences.
On balance, I decided there were too many ‘ifs’ with a vaginal birth. There are risks with c-sections too, but I decided that it was the least risky option for me.
I ended up seeing my obstetrician a few more times because I had some extra scans, and we got on really well. It felt like she went a step further and I was really well looked after.
I was very keen to have her present at the birth, and we chose a date when she’d be available. I felt really reassured knowing that when I went into theatre there would be a familiar face there; someone I trusted.
“Having the IV catheter put in was the most painful bit of the birth”
On the day of the birth, I had to be at the hospital at 7.30am and fasted. I’d already had a blood test a couple of days in advance, so the preparation at the hospital was quite quick.
After I’d met everyone and my obstetrician had made sure I still wanted to go ahead with the c-section, they escorted my husband Oliver and me down to theatre. When we got into the room there were a lot of people there – around ten including me and Oliver.
I sat down on the bed and they put an IV catheter in my hand – that was actually the most painful bit of the birth. Having the spinal block was slightly uncomfortable but not painful, just a bit of pressure on my back.
Soon after the spinal was administered, I couldn’t feel my legs anymore and they laid me down on the bed and started preparing me for the surgery. I was very excited that I was about to meet my baby, but it was also a little bit scary to be having the surgery.
“I really enjoyed the whole birth experience”
The anaesthetist explained everything that was happening throughout the c-section, and the obstetrician and nurses were talking to me as well. Everyone kept me informed and reassured me that everything was fine, which made me feel really relaxed.
The strange thing is that I really enjoyed the whole experience, it was such a special and exciting moment and there was a really nice atmosphere.
Oliver and I had put together a playlist to listen to in the theatre and everyone was enjoying the music. There was no stress or rush, everyone was just enjoying the jobs that they had to do and getting on with it.
Our daughter was born while the song Stay Close by The Blue Nile was playing. We have a really nice video of when my husband saw her for the first time which always makes everyone who watches it cry. And although I didn’t focus on the music during the birth, I couldn’t listen to the playlist for a couple of months afterwards because it made me cry.
“My baby started feeding straight away in the theatre”
As soon as she was born, the baby was taken over to the table to be weighed and checked over before they put her on my chest. She started feeding straight away in theatre while they were suturing me up, which took around half an hour.
I felt amazed, relieved and proud that everything had gone well and she was healthy.
I lost a bit more blood than average during the surgery, my blood pressure dropped and I was feeling a bit nauseous and out of it at that point in the birth.
I was given extra IV fluids and medications to increase my blood pressure and reduce the nausea, and I started to feel better quite quickly.
The whole surgery took around 1.5 hours and afterwards, we were wheeled into recovery before they took us up to the ward. As we left the theatre, the team said to Oliver and me: “See you in two years!”.
“I got up and had a shower the same day as the c-section”
The spinal lasted for another four or five hours, which helped with the pain, and after that I had tramadol, ibuprofen and paracetamol but never any opiates. I know the experience of pain is different for everybody, but for me it mainly felt like I’d done a lot of sit-ups.
When the spinal wore off I could start to move around, and I got out of the bed and had a shower the same evening as the birth. I really think it makes a difference to recovery to get up and about as soon as possible after the birth.
We stayed on the postnatal ward for three nights. I could have left after two nights but it would have been in the evening, and the thought of arriving home with a newborn baby with a long night ahead of us was pretty scary.
I’d really recommend leaving the hospital in the morning, so that you have the day at home to get used to things when it’s your first baby.
I also wanted to get help with breastfeeding and because we live up three flights of stairs I was worried about how I would manage that soon after the surgery, which was another reason we stayed an extra night. In the end, going up the stairs was absolutely fine.
“I had a bouncier recovery than some friends who had vaginal births”
After we came home, I had my mum staying close by for a month, which was helpful, and my husband was around for a couple of weeks as well. I do think you need a bit more help after a c-section birth than a straightforward vaginal birth.
My recovery after birth was really quick and without complications. In fact, I had a bouncier recovery than some of my friends who had complications after vaginal births. I was able to go for walks outdoors sooner than I thought I would be, and after two weeks I was back to driving.
I kept taking tramadol for three days after the birth and ibuprofen and paracetamol for about a week, but I didn’t need any pain relief after that.
I was surprised that it was less painful than I thought it would be. I’ve had surgery before, and I found I had less pain after the c-section than other types of procedures.
“Do your research – how you give birth is a very personal decision”
For any women who are pregnant and thinking about choosing a c-section, I really recommend trying to get an appointment with an obstetrician to discuss your options.
Bear in mind that all obstetricians have different opinions and some are more willing than others to perform elective c-sections without a medical reason. So if you find your midwife or obstetrician isn’t listening to you, ask to see someone else.
Do your research, speak to other women and try to get a balanced view of the risks and benefits of both vaginal and elective caesarean births.
It’s a very personal choice and all women should be able to have all the information available and make that decision for themselves.
More from Which?
- Requesting a c-section: We guide you through the pros and cons of having a c-section and explain how to arrange the birth you want.
- Having a c-section: what you need to know: Find out your choices for anaesthetics and who’s present in the theatre during a c-section.
- Recovery after a c-section: What to expect in the days and weeks after giving birth by caesarean.