More and more women in the United States (and around the world) are having cesarean births. A recent study from the Yale University of Medicine showed two main reasons for the rise: more c-sections in first-time moms and lower rates of VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).
For your first baby, what can you do to reduce your chances of an unnecessary cesarean birth? We’ve identified 10 areas where you can be proactive and stack the deck in your favor.
1. Hire your provider wisely.
This point is number one for a reason – it’s critical. In most practices, you could have any one of several doctors or midwives. You get whoever is on call when you go into labor. It’s helpful to know your practice’s cesarean rates.
The labels “obstetrician,” “family doctor” and “midwife” don’t necessarily tell you what you need to know about your provider’s philosophy. Some doctors practice more like midwives, and some midwives practice more like a stereotypical doctor. Will they have a toolbox of natural techniques or only medical tools to help you if your labor is complex?
If you’re not sure which doctor or midwife to choose, ask a doula. Doulas see all kinds of births with many different practices, and they will be happy to make a recommendation of a provider with a low cesarean rate and good bedside manner. If you find out that your provider is not supportive, it is never too late to switch, even if you are just a few weeks or even days before your due date.
2. Hire a doula.
Simply put, doulas make birth better, and there’s research to prove it. A meta-analysis of studies shows that women who use a doula are 26 percent less likely to have a cesarean birth, among other dramatic benefits.
Having continuous support from a friend of family member can be helpful too, but the best results come when women hire an outside doula, according to a recent Cochrane Review.
What exactly is the doula magic? The research hasn’t pinpointed it, but I think the unique combination of physical, emotional and informational support, plus gentle advocacy makes a huge difference. Doulas help women feel safe and comfortable so the hormones of labor can work at optimal levels, positioning ideas and tricks can help babies work their way out, and evidence-based information and help communicating with the medical staff can help women have their best chance inside a system that doesn’t really promote natural birth.