Dot writes: as Prawn has grown my attention has turned to issues of baby-care and development – I’m holding off on writing a big post about poo, dear readers – but this last week has brought me back to yoga and so back to birth stories. The first mother-and-baby yoga class started with telling our birth stories. I’ve also been contacting the women who attended the same pregnancy yoga class as me with a view to arranging a meeting; not all of us have had our babies yet but I’ve been finding out how it went for those who have. Though we scarcely constitute a statistically significant sample, I am struck by just how many of us yoga-mums, despite all our preparation, ended up having caesarean sections: six out of the ten women, including me, that I’ve spoken to so far. And I think most of us were pretty committed to natural childbirth; we weren’t women who just wanted to be quietly anaesthetized and unzipped; we certainly weren’t ‘too posh to push’. As a group we’re on the old side, which is a factor. But it seems a very high proportion even so. Here are some further details (though I haven’t yet heard full stories from everyone):
– two repeat caesareans. One was scheduled for caesarean, went into labour early, but her cervix didn’t dilate at all. (Come to think of it I don’t know why this woman was diagnosed as being in labour if she wasn’t dilating, but I only spoke to her briefly. Maybe this was a stalled labour.) The other was planning a VBAC but started to bleed and had a section without going into labour.
– one elective section because of a pre-existing medical condition
– one because antenatal checks showed hardly any amniotic fluid around the baby
– one breech baby. The mother had gone into labour but after a good beginning there was no dilation for four hours, so the doctors decided on a section.
– one I don’t know any details for.
The first thing that strikes me is that it’s hard to pick any of these cases and say ‘this woman should not have had a section.’ The breech baby maybe could have been born naturally if the medical staff had watched and waited, but the presenting part in a breech birth tends to be less efficient in stimulating the cervix and that certainly seems to have been the case here. The mother was in strong labour: should she have been left to struggle on?
The second thing that struck me quite powerfully was that the people who had planned sections without going into labour seemed to have a much better experience than those who had emergency sections. The woman with the pre-existing medical condition said she didn’t bother to take the pain medication she was given and that she was ‘zipping around’ even the next day. Now I certainly wasn’t zipping the next day and all I had was a second degree tear. The woman who planned the VBAC was surprised when I described a caesarean case on my ward as appearing much iller than the women who’d birthed vaginally. On the other hand, the mother of the breech baby said that, while she was prepared conceptually for being cut open, ‘nothing prepares you for the assault on your body’.
What this suggests to me is how hard it is going to be to reverse the trend towards caesareans. The trend is clearly in the wrong direction, but when it comes to particular cases the decision to operate always looks like the right one. Indeed, the anecdotal evidence here implies all these women should just have had planned caesareans in the first place.
I was so, so lucky…but why isn’t it normal to be normal?