Picking the safer option

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  • Thursday, 12 Mar 2015

Dr Sharifah: New research shows natural childbirth can be good for babies.

Madam SA, 28, was expecting her first baby and as she has no medical problems, she has a good chance of having a successful natural childbirth.

However, Madam SA wanted to have a Caesarean delivery because she was afraid of going through a natural childbirth.

Nowadays, a mother choosing to have a C-section without any medical reason is not uncommon in both public and private hospitals.

This has contributed to a rise in the rate of C-sections worldwide.

It has been estimated that the rate of C-section is about 25% to 30% in public hospitals today and it is much higher in private hospitals.

Pregnant women prefer to go under the knife for many reasons.

Possible risk: It is no doubt that a C-section is a form of surgery.
Possible risk: It is no doubt that a C-section is a form of surgery.

They want to take better control of their lives, bodies and health. Believing that a natural birth will alter their body shape to a great extent, they opt for a C-section.

Which is safer: natural childbirth or C-section?

A natural childbirth is much safer than a C-section for most women and babies.

However, sometimes a C-section is the only safe option, especially when natural birth is not possible because of certain reasons such as the baby is in distress or the placenta is covering the cervical opening (placenta previa).

In these situations, having a C-section might have some possible benefits, but to have the procedure without a valid reason, the risks need to be considered.

What are the possible risks and benefits of a C-section?

There’s no getting around the fact that a C-section is a form of surgery.

All surgeries have risks such as infection, injury to blood vessels and organs, and serious bleeding.

A C-section can also cause problems for babies such as breathing difficulties.

Recovering after a C-section is also more difficult than after a natural childbirth.

In the long term, C-sections can cause chronic pelvic pain in some women.

Many women after undergoing a C-section live with long-term pain and discomfort caused by adhesions.

Caesarean delivery also affects the chances of women having natural childbirth in a subsequent pregnancy because the scar on the uterus may not be strong enough and it could cause complications such as scar rupture and severe bleeding.

Babies born through C-section are also not free from long-term health risks.

Many studies have shown that babies born by C-section have higher rates of some serious childhood diseases such as asthma, diabetes and allergies and are more likely to become obese.

Researchers think these negative effects have to do with healthy bacteria in the birth canal that the babies are not exposed to during Caesarean delivery.

What are the possible benefits and risks of natural birth?

Even though being in labour and having a natural birth can be hard work, it is easier on a woman’s body than a Caesarean.

Recovery after natural childbirth is usually shorter and less painful than after a C-section, and allows the woman to spend more time with her baby.

New research is also discovering ways a natural childbirth can be good for babies too.

The hormone that causes a woman to go into labour actually prepares the baby for childbirth, reducing the chance of problems such as breathing difficulties.

However, natural childbirth is not risk-free either.

Although the skin and tissues around the vagina can stretch quite a lot to allow a baby through, many women do have lacerations that require stitches.

However, most of these tears are minor and heal easily but a small number of women will have more serious tears that take longer to heal.

Stretching and tearing can also weaken the muscles that control urine and bowel movements, so some women will leak urine or faeces in the weeks or months after giving birth, with some having problems that last longer.

These problems are much more likely if the baby was delivered with a forceps or vacuum or if the woman had an episiotomy.

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