Before we even dive deep into the topic of Cesarean sections (commonly known as C-sections), let’s call it what it is: MAJOR abdominal surgery! Yes, you heard me right, MAJOR abdominal surgery is what happens when a woman has a C-section. Please don’t think of it any differently, and stop making it sound like it’s not a big deal.
As a birth worker and student midwife, I find it very odd that women, doctors, and every other person with an opinion talk about C-sections so casually. We see the end result of this beautiful baby and caring mom and fail to acknowledge the recovery the mother is dealing with. Not just the birth of the baby and all that comes with it (lack of sleep, constant feeding, huge hormonal fluxes), but also the major physical recovery from labor and delivery, including the mother’s abdominal wall and uterus being cut and torn open.
So, please become enlightened to what a C-section is and take a ride with me while we drive down the hill to get to the bottom of this. A quick Google search will say it takes somewhere between 6-8 weeks to recover from a vaginal birth. I’d expect that women having C-sections would require a longer recovery period, but big shocker, a Google search says it takes only 6 weeks to recover from a C-section. 6 weeks! This makes NO sense. How is it that someone who has a vaginal birth will recover in 6-8 weeks, but someone who goes through major abdominal surgery to give birth recovers in the same amount of time?
The statistics of C-sections are increasing. According to a report from CNN, “In the United States, 32% of births were by C-section in 2015, an increase from 23% in 2000.” And in the United Kingdom, “26.2% of births were by C-section in 2015, up from 19.7% in 2000.” These high rates of C-sections don’t make you think this is a major surgery but rather a new norm for birthing babies.
I am NOT saying that C-sections are a bad thing or that vaginal births should require less recovery time (they both require way more than 6-8 weeks). What I am saying is that we need to shine a light on the truth about what a C-section entails.
Women create a brand new human being all within 9 months — a pretty incredible feat. The amount of changes that take place hormonally during pregnancy and postpartum is a whole other topic in of itself, but we must acknowledge that ALL births require a recovery period of a year or more. We need to remember the effects a C-sections can have, and recognize it for what it is — a major abdominal surgery. This way we make sure that it is being used for life-saving reasons and really think twice before we consider it to be an elective alternative to vaginal birth.
So please, when you hear C-section, think major abdominal surgery + recovering from birth.