Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Post-Cesarean Feelings Survey

I'd like to help share and reflect on the results from the Post-Cesarean Feelings Survey.

I consider the findings of the 
Post Cesarean Feelings Survey as discussed by Danielle from Momotics to be very interesting. I think the survey, which asked mothers about their cesarean experience, was a great endeavor. There were a variety of questions, but the comment responses received on one question in particular have been the most heart-wrenching and enlightening. I want to share the results of that question.

For more info, negative responses originally posted here and positive responses originally posted here

Would you describe your experience as:

Wonderful – 27.7%  – 227  Mothers
Empowering – 7.4%  – 61 Mothers
Frustrating – 26.7%  – 219 Mothers
Traumatic – 46.8%  – 384 Mothers
Disappointing – 45.5%  – 373 Mothers

*Note, mothers were allowed to choose more than one option
41 Mothers Skipped this question
479 left a comment with their answer

A sampling of the most heart-wrenching negative responses:

“Felt disjointed, like my daughter was not my own because I didn’t birth her” – Mellissa

“I knew I wanted natural but got talked into every intervention with “do you want your baby to die” as the reason. Of course my answer was no but with no education I assumed the Doctors knew more.”

"It was induction at 39 weeks for no reason, artificial water breaking, pitocin, laying in bed, epidural and very little progress after 17 hours. I was uneducated and thought the OB and hospital knew what they were doing. I was wrong.” – Lisa

"I never imagined I would end up with a cesarean, I never even read the chapter in the pregnancy books.”

“I was scared into having a c-s because my OB said I was going to be having a “big baby.” I had a c-s at 39 weeks and my daughter was a very normal 7 lbs 13 oz. I never even got a chance to have a trial of labor.”

“The hospital staff and doctor were assuring me that a c-sectoon was the right thing or else my baby and I would die because he would get stuck coming out the “other” way and there was no way they could get him out then. During the surgery they talked about Ikea furniture and their wedding rings ignoring me when I told them I needed to throw up as a result I threw up on the floor and someones shoes which they were quick to pony out were brand new.”

“Currently suffer from P.T.S.D. from birth, rude Ob who took over, no communication during surgery and newborn exam, thought baby was near death turned out a medical student was practicing weighing and measuring newborn, before I’d even seen him.”

“It has ruined me"

And a sampling of some positive responses:

“The staff did a wonderful job of making it a pleasant experience for me and my husband, despite the fact that I didn’t want c-sections”

“My experiences were great. No trauma, no feelings of missing anything, totally rewarding birth experiences."

“My OB was wonderful. C-section was a very easy thing and not really very scary.”

“I would describe my first vaginal birth as traumatic, my c-sections were calm and stress free”

“I was in control of my medical decisions, the staff/my physician were helpful and non confrontational, some of the hospital practices were unhelpful and unnecessary during my labor. I think surgery was the best option in my particular case.”

“I can think of nothing but good things with my c sections. I healed well. The c section produced 4 very healthy babies.”

“Anytime you bring a child into the world is a wonderful experience. A cesarean is still a birth and a woman should not feel any less for this.”

There are several things that I take away from this commentary.

Many of the women who reacted negatively to their Cesarean section experiences tended to have received little true information or preparation about C-sections, either before or during the procedure. They trusted implicitly in the advice of their doctors and didn't realize until after that things could have been different. And the shame of this is that obstetricians are not always going to give advice based on what is best for mother and baby, but simply based on timing, convenience, money, fear of a law suit, or lack of evidence-based medical training. The very best thing you can do is to read as much as you can on the pros and cons of a Cesarean, the real medical indications for one, and learn how to ask the right questions of your doctor. 

Furthermore, many of the women who reacted negatively to their Cesarean experiences reported having been treated very poorly by staff and doctors. The way a woman is treated during her birth experience has been shown to have a large effect on how she feels about it after:

The way a woman is treated by the professionals on whom she depends may largely determine how she feels about the experience for the rest of her life.
(Just Another Day in a Woman's Life? 1991, Penny Simkin)

The women who reported positive Cesarean experiences found their staff helpful and pleasant, and I believe that had a huge effect on how the women felt about their cesarean delivery afterwards. 

Many women who have had traumatic Cesarean birth experiences may feel hurt in reaction to some of the positive responses to this question and those who think that a c-section is "just another way to give birth" and "women should be grateful for a healthy baby." It is important to acknowledge the feelings of disappointment, not make the woman feel guilty or tell them to keep quiet. 

Danielle from Momotics also wrote, in a different post:

Society as a whole needs to STOP further victimizing the women who have bad birth experiences, or birth trauma and instead, embrace them!  Help them, hug them, hold them… help them work through their trauma, not just simply tell her to get over it and move on.  Comments like those FURTHER victimize these already vulnerable women.

You wouldn’t tell a rape victim to just get over it.

You wouldn’t tell a bride who’s wedding was ruined to just get over it.

I agree.

But I believe it is also true that a woman can have a positive cesarean experience as well. If the Cesarean is truly medically necessary (what if you're having twins, one is transverse, and you are at risk for high blood pressure?) If the woman feels well-informed, respected, is treated well both medically and emotionally and everything turns out well, she may find it a very rewarding experience.

Many women living in "undeveloped" or "third world" parts of the world would be lucky to even have the option of a Cesarean delivery. Many birthing women die because they do not have access to the emergency medical treatment that might save their lives. I do believe that women can honestly feel grateful for a Cesarean section, even while others have suffered because of one. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write about this and the survey. I would like to break down the comments further in time, but getting all the information out there right now is most important!

    Thank you again!


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