Caesareans have transformed from life-saving intervention into risky procedure performed for one in three births and often geography is the deciding factor
Carmen Walker didnt realize how bad things had gotten until she heard her doctors voice from across the operating room: Im going to try to save her uterus.
Walker had delivered her first child by caesarean section, so when she became pregnant a second time, doctors didnt think twice before scheduling another. And then another and another. Now, giving birth to her sixth child, she was experiencing the consequences: placenta accreta, a condition which is linked to multiple C-sections and can result in fatal bleeding.
Caesarean sections have saved the lives of millions of infants who might have otherwise been killed or permanently injured during difficult births. But in the US, the rate of caesareans has increased so much over the decades that the surgery has been transformed from a life-saving intervention into a procedure performed as a matter of course during one in three US births.
In 2015, the latest year for which the Centers for Disease Control has data, the share of births by C-section was 32%. The World Health Organization has suggested that the rate should not be higher than 10% – 15%, while other experts have suggested it should not be higher than 19%. The last time the USs rate was that low was during the 1970s.
Pregnancy and birth happen as they do, yet many women are openly judged if a “not natural” option is chosen. Recently, photographer Helen Aller, from Guernsey, UK, took this intimate photo of a mother and her three-day-old baby boy next to her caesarean incision. The woman, who did not want to be identified, had decided on a vaginal birth, but was forced to have an emergency caesarean due to complications. She wanted a picture taken of the operation that saved her and her baby.
“I photographed this mama’s pregnancy a while back and she was telling me how terrified she was of having a c-section,” wrote Aller on Facebook. “Well last week she went into labor but had to have an emergency c-section after complications. She asked me to come over this morning and shoot this particular image as her worst nightmare proved to be what saved her and her child’s lives.”
“[She] wanted something to show that her biggest fear was what in the end saved both of them. I think she will see that scar and appreciate the life they were given”
“I can’t believe the amount of women that are ashamed of their scars and made to feel like they haven’t done the job properly because they didn’t give birth naturally,” Aller wrote on Facebook
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Despite medical advancements, childbirth is a major cause of post-traumatic stress disorder and yet nobody talks about it. Leah McLaren tells the harrowing story of the arrival of her second child and her fight for treatment and support
The seconds that stretch between the act of giving birth and waiting to hear a baby cry are the most harrowing moments in an otherwise privileged life. My second son, Frank, didnt cry.
Late last summer in a London hospital, he was born semi-conscious. His pulse was faint and he was floppy as a rag doll, a pale bluish grey in colour. There were angry red indents on his nose and skull that would later turn into deep purple bruises. According to his hospital notes his Apgar score at birth (on which 10 is hale and zero is non-responsive) was two. Just before emerging, Frank turned to the left and got stuck in the birth canal no amount of pushing could make him budge. He was wrenched out of me, first ineffectively with a vacuum and then later, definitively, with a pair of giant metal salad tongs called forceps. The midwife briefly placed his limp little body on my chest and then scooped him up again and over to the opposite side of the room where the doctors began their work.
At first, still dazed from the birth, I didnt fully understand what was going on. I remember thinking how strange it was that for hours on end all the focus had been on my body, and the monumental effort to make it do what it was supposed to, and now everything had shifted. It was like Id been split in two and what was left of me the remaining husk seemed almost incidental to the scene.
I heard an alarm wailing in the corridor outside our room and I thought, vaguely, that there must be an emergency on this floor. Residents and interns in scrubs began streaming through the door, craning to see the patient our motionless, minutes-old son. Before long there was a standing- room only crowd around the baby. My husband squeezed my hand as I processed the silent revelation that the emergency was us.