cerThere's a secret about cesarean births (at least in the USA).
How many people do you know who had an "emergency cesarean"?
Probably a lot.
Because over 30% of births in the US are surgical vs vaginal. And many of those aren't planned - otherwise known as "emergency cesareans." Right? Wrong.
NOW THIS NEXT PART IS IMPORTANT: If you had a cesarean birth you are ALLOWED TO CALL IT WHATEVER YOU WANT!!! If it was an emergency to you, then it was an emergency. This is not meant as judgement on anyone's previous birth experience.
THIS POST ONLY APPLIES TO FUTURE BIRTHS. When planning for your birth experience it's important to know that there is a vast difference between an URGENT/UNPLANNED cesarean, and a true EMERGENCY cesaraean.
A cesarean is typically recommended by your health care provider for a variety of reasons, usually surrounding your safety or your baby's safety. It could be risk of infection, heartrate issues, a less-than-ideal position of the baby making pushing difficult or impossible, and sometimes maternal fatigue after a long labor. Sometimes this is a true emergency situation: all hands on deck, rushing the pregnant person into the operating room with very little time to breathe or think about what's happening.
But many, many times the reasons are URGENT, but not an immediate emergency.
When you believe it's an EMERGENCY situation your fight or flight instincts kick in, typically placing the physical health of your soon-to-be- born infant above your own physical or mental well-being. Welcome to parenthood! You'll do this many, many times in the future years.
The only problem with this scenario is when there isn't a true emergency. Believing you're in an emergency situation when you aren't floods your body with unnecessary stress hormones, which can have a negative affect on you and possibly your baby. It causes the more rational and analytical part of your brain to take a back seat while the fight-or-flight center takes over - this may cause you to not process information appropriately when hearing the risks and benefits of the surgery. Finally, the urgency that accompanies this "emergency" belief causes us to skip out on steps that might reduce our overall stress and raise our satisfaction with the overall birth experience.
Consider for a moment what a difference it might make if, when your provider suggests a cesarean birth, you clarify that this isn't an immediate life-or-death emergency situation.
This is a MUCH more gentle approach, and you deserve to have the gentlest birth experience possible. Emergency cesareans ARE sometimes necessary and I don't certainly don't mean to invalidate anyone's previous birth experience. April is Cesarean Awareness Month, and with such a high rate of cesarean births in our country, it's important to be fully prepared for this possible outcome.
Unless you want to!
"I'm just going to check you quick."
"Just a quick stretch and sweep."
These procedures come by many names. But they're all basically the same thing: at a prenatal appointment in your last weeks of pregnancy your medical provider sticks his or her fingers in your vagina and feels around, presumably to tell how ripe/open/thin your cervix is. Sometimes they do more (with or without your consent) to manually stretch out your cervix (sometimes called a "stretch and sweep" or "membrane sweep" or some variation thereof).
Here's the thing: this procedure prior to labor provides zero useable knowledge. Literally zero. (Because it can change AT ANY MOMENT).
And... it comes with risks. Most notably, a risk of infection to you or your baby, a risk of unplanned breaking of waters (premature rupture of membranes or PROM), uterine irritability (lots of useless contractions or braxton hicks), and just plain old disappointment (because, honestly, no matter what info your doctor gives you it's never good enough when you're just ready for your baby to be in your arms).
So.... pregnant people... just stop letting people stick their fingers in your vagina without a solid reason.
Solid reason = your pleasure. Or knowing that some useable knowledge will come of it.
Unfortunately, as much as we'd all love to have a crystal ball, no one knows when labor will start, or how long it will last. Even your doctor (or midwife). Even if they have their fingers in your vagina.
Anyway, as always, I recommend you do with this information whatever YOU want. If you enjoy cervical exams, if you believe the snapshot of current information will relieve your anxiety, then by all means... go for it! Truly. No judgement.
But for those who find it invasive or uncomfortable... just fucking say no.