C Section generation
November 24, 2003 3:36 PM   Subscribe

More children now than ever are being born from cesarean sections. It's known that giving birth this way can leave psychological damage to the mother, but what effect is it having on the children?
posted by atom128 (39 comments total)
For the record, I'm not posting this as a condemnation or attack on C Sections, as I was born of one myself, and had I not been born this way, it is almost assured that I would have died before ever having lived. Just lately I've been wondering about what the effect it had on me as a person, and how it may have changed me. That's all. I was just wondering if anyone else had thoughts on this topic.
posted by atom128 at 3:39 PM on November 24, 2003

That last link would have us believe that it is possible to objectively evaluate the "spirituality" of an infant:

Treated infants are more spiritually inclined than untreated infants, and this was a surprising finding. Subtle signs of spirituality are first noticed during infancy and become obvious during childhood. Spirituality is defined in terms of internal characteristics rather than religious involvement. Some of the many qualities used to define spirituality are: the presence of light in the eyes, the occurrence of spontaneous meditation (blank, open eyed staring), the daily occurrence of peaceful feelings, the manifestation of presence (as defined in psychological literature), an age appropriate understanding of synchronicity, and a belief in or experience of a higher power. There are many qualities which reflect spirituality, and it is rare for children to manifest them all.

"The presence of light in the eyes?" WTF?
posted by kindall at 3:45 PM on November 24, 2003

Kindall, you mean you didn't know that some children have miniature flashlights in place of their eyeballs?

...wow, where did YOU go to school?
posted by aramaic at 3:48 PM on November 24, 2003

but what effect is it having on the children?

Steven Wright: "I was born by cesarean section. But it's not like you'd notice anything. It's just that when I go out, I tend to leave by the window."
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:50 PM on November 24, 2003

Carrie was pretty damned spiritual, then, eh?

I have occurrence of spontaneous meditation, although my wife prefers to call it "gapping out." Pah! I'm meditating, dammit, and meditate I will until I get that morning-time fix of sweet, glorious, spiritual caffeine.

I also get that daily peaceful feeling, but I don't think you want the details.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:53 PM on November 24, 2003

there seems to be some evidence that being born by c-section can contribute to respiratory problems.
another mention here.
(i realize that two of those links go to sites that look like they have an agenda, but they reference real studies).
posted by dolface at 3:57 PM on November 24, 2003

Speaking of birth trauma, I believe it's pretty well-recognized that the human female pelvis is barely adequately designed for the passage of a baby. To wit, our heads are way too freaking big for the little hole we have to squeeze through.

So buying-in to this idea of C-section babies being birth-traumatized would require believing that having one's head squeezed like a pound of steak through a sausage-making machine is a good thing.

Somehow, I remain dubious.

Then again, I say this as one who, as an infant, pressed his head against the top of the crib so frequently that he now has a flat spot. Apparently the pressure felt good...
posted by five fresh fish at 3:59 PM on November 24, 2003

spirituality is socially defined

newborns are, luckily (so far!) exempt from social conditioning

thus ...
posted by luriete at 3:59 PM on November 24, 2003

Kindall, you mean you didn't know that some children have miniature flashlights in place of their eyeballs?

Best. Comment. Ever.
posted by xmutex at 4:07 PM on November 24, 2003

I believe it's pretty well-recognized that the human female pelvis is barely adequately designed for the passage of a baby.

Erm, seems like vaginal births have been working pretty well so far (you know, for the last few hundreds of thousands of years), and continue to work pretty well in the world's other industrialized nations, all of which have lower caesarian rates than the United States'. Read more here.

While the FPP's second link in particular seemed a little woo-woo for my taste, it's incontestable that the United States' caesarian rate is out of control.
posted by arielmeadow at 4:32 PM on November 24, 2003

Then again, I say this as one who, as an infant, pressed his head against the top of the crib so frequently that he now has a flat spot

you had a cage?
posted by tristeza at 4:48 PM on November 24, 2003

Erm, seems like vaginal births have been working pretty well so far (you know, for the last few hundreds of thousands of years)

For values of "working pretty well" equal to "frequently killing the mother" or "probably about as dangerous as being shot in the chest." Premedical, non-antiseptic childbirth slaughtered millions to billions.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:25 PM on November 24, 2003

Spiritualty? This has fruitloop written all over it.

Having said that, mortality doubles for both babies and mothers with elective caesareans. It's major abdominal surgery with all the normal attendant risks and some more. It amazes me how casually people talk about it.

FFF: simply wrong. Babies' heads are not too freaking big, as all our ancestors and we ourselves attest.

Standard US birth practice (mother lying on her back) is the single worst position for pushing them out. Its only advantage is it makes access easier for doctors. Squatting, sitting or on hands and knees is a lot easier. (My ex is a midwife: I can quote chapter and verse on this kind of thing).

ROU_Xenophobe: "Premedical, non-antiseptic childbirth slaughtered millions to billions". A tad emotive, methinks. And you do know that doctors fought hard against Semmelweiss, don't you? And that many medical interventions such as episiotomy actually increase, rather than reduce risk, when actually studied?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:49 PM on November 24, 2003

I don't get the whole idea that C-Sections are supposed to "cause psychological damage" to the mothers. Why? The only reason I can see is if you are one of those hysterical dimwits who has an elective C-section because you're afraid of the pain of labor or something equally dumb. That's not really because of the C-section, that's because you're a hysterical dimwit who (rightfully) feels guilty because didn't do the healthiest thing for your child due to your own selfishness, not because you had a c-section. As long as a C-section is medically necessary (and my definition of "medically necessary" is "your doctor says so"), why would it cause you any problems? I'm due in April, and while I'm planning on a vaginal birth, if I need a C-section for some reason, I don't see any reason why I should feel the least bit guilty about it.
posted by Shoeburyness at 5:50 PM on November 24, 2003

Puhleeeze--as the dad of two healthy kids, one c-section, one not, I cannot think of a sillier idea than the premise that a c-section automatically gives puts you at lifelong risk for emotional trauma. The Emerson readings are classic pseudo-science: anecdotal evidence taken as categorical proof, self-selected case studies ("M") who meet highly subjective criteria, etc.

When my first was born with C-section, he was quickly wiped off and immediately put in my arms--he spent the first hour of his life staring up into my face and hearing me sing while the procedure finished up. ("Lack of contact trauma", my ass.) If you end up in a cold, impersonal institution, they're gonna whisk your kid away right away no matter how it was born--_that's_ the problem.

That's not to say that any dramatic intervention like a C-section is to be taken lightly...it is, without question, major abdominal surgery, and it is also being used with abandon to make doctor's lives easier. My wife and I are whole-hearted proponents of natural childbirth, and we were delighted that our second kid was able to be VBAC ("Vaginal Birth After Cesarean"), without any drugs at all. Nevertheless, until you show me a large, double-blind study that reliably correlates specific symptoms with C-section birth, this is just another example of people's desperation to find external excuses for their personal failings. ("It's not my fault! I was a C-section baby! My mom drank soda when she was pregnant with me! I ate a Pop Tart when I was three!")
posted by LairBob at 5:53 PM on November 24, 2003

There are women who schedule a 2nd (3rd, etc.) surgical delivery, for convenience. There are certainly some doctors who practice very defensive medicine. So the caesarian rate is elevated. Vaginal delivery is much better for both the mother and infant.

I had my child surgically removed after 2 trial labors. He had a head the size of a pumpkin, and was born with slight dents in his skull from where he tried very hard to get past my pelvis. In times past, he would almost certainly not have lived, and I would probably have died as well.

It's no picnic. I had a post-surgical infection and other complications. It was very expensive, scary, and I have an ugly scar. Carrying around a 10 pound infant while recovering from surgery is rather difficult.

If you have the money, time and energy to get riled about the spiritual effects of being born surgically, please consider using those resources to help children get born alive, and have a chance of making it to their 1st birthday, in a 3rd world country with a high infant / maternal mortality rate. It'll be good for your karma.

on preview - Lairbob, a nurse came into the operating room to announce that my (now ex-) husband was holding the baby with his shirt off to get that skin-to-skin contact, as we'd discussed.
posted by theora55 at 6:01 PM on November 24, 2003

I was born by caesarian section (in 1974) as I'd managed to wrap my umbilical cord around my neck in the womb and was in a fair degree of trouble on the way out.

My youngest daughter was also born by caesarian (23 months ago) as my wife was unfortunate enough to suffer a placental abruption (whereupon the placenta becomes detatched from the womb, preventing oxygen reaching the baby and causing massive blood loss in the mother) and both would have died had it not been for fast-acting surgeons.

But to this day, my wife believes mothers who choose elective caesarians are bonkers, and tend to be taken in by the mistaken belief that they're somehow opting for an easier, safer method of childbirth than their "natural" counterparts. They are not. Really.

You can't lift anything (including your baby and/or your other children), you can't drive (for six weeks), you're bedridden, must be careful you don't engage in any activity likely to split your stitches - the list goes on and on.

These are my wife's views rather than my own (after all, I'm a man and as such am not qualified to have an opinion about these things) but considering our experience, anyone choosing a caesarian over a more natural birth without a damned good reason is far more likely to have a negative psychological sway on their children than someone who gave birth naturally or didn't have much of a choice as regards the method.
posted by chrimble at 6:08 PM on November 24, 2003

It might be reasonable to point out that a very high percentage of female obstetricians and gynecologists elect to **voluntarily** have c-sections.
posted by pjdoland at 6:16 PM on November 24, 2003

pjdoland: references, please.

Your statements are otherwise meaningless in this context.
posted by chrimble at 6:20 PM on November 24, 2003

I guess the thing about C sections are that they frequently save lives. I have younger sibling born this way, and mum opted for it because the baby was sideways - the alternative to C section was death or at least severe permanent injury to both her and the baby.

Before you rip on C sections, consider the alternatives - and in the end it has to be up to the mother anyway.
posted by spazzm at 6:22 PM on November 24, 2003

triteza: "you had a cage?" You didn't? How'd your parents keep you from rolling around the house -- nail your feet to the floor?

Hell, I had one of those cribs that are now completely, utterly illegal in all first-world countries. It was one of those "baby sticks his head through the bars, then snaps it off" Dire Threats To Outliving Childhood devices.

Those claiming that the human anatomy must be good simply because we have it: pshaw! The best you can say is that the design isn't so bad as to prefer evolutionary selection to a wider pelvis versus an evolutionary preference for a pelvis that, say, allows women to walk without swaying awkwardly.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:56 PM on November 24, 2003

spazzm, sure, there will be some circumstances when c-sections lessen the overall risk. However, WHO guidelines suggest that 10-15% of births is "normal" - far less than the US and many other Western nations. (Here in NZ we run around 20%).

I wish there had been some better links to fuel this discussion than the fruitloop stuff. :-( I mean, an increased risk of death on the operating table would be uppermost in MY mind...

fff: are you saying that women sway awkwardly when they walk? I can't believe that's what you meant.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:04 PM on November 24, 2003

A tad emotive, methinks. And you do know that doctors fought hard against Semmelweiss, don't you?

I don't recall praising doctors to the moon. I was resisting the notion that vaginal childbirth as practiced for hundreds of thousands of years worked "pretty well." As far as I care, the death rates for women in childbirth were far outside the bounds of working "pretty well."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:35 PM on November 24, 2003

Ok, time to share my story. I was born in 1978 and delivered by a cesarean-crazed doctor who told my mom she had to have a c-section. At the time she was young and accepted his wisdom, but years later she thinks he was a quack. She was in labor when the doc gave her drugs to keep her from pushing and delivered me by c-section although my head had already started to crown. My head was a really strange shape after birth -- with an oval dent where I had started coming out through the birth canal before the doctor pulled me back out through my mother's belly. I had pneumonia and other health problems that I'm sure are associated with how I was born.

It should come as no surprise that my mom was emotionally traumatized by this event.

The next two kids she had she really wanted to give birth naturally, but in the first part of the 1980s it was widely believed that natural births were impossible after c-sections.

In 1987, when her fourth child was born the old fashioned way, she was written up and filmed for CNN. Woman has natural birth after c-sections! Hallelujah.

She has always resented how her first three children were born, but I think a lot has to do with her choice being taken away from her. When my youngest sibling's life was saved by a c-section (yes, there are five of us), my mom made the choice. I don't think she's ever regretted the decision.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:20 PM on November 24, 2003

Oh, and neither I nor my brothers is spiritual, regardless of how we were born.

Our eyes do emit light, however.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:21 PM on November 24, 2003

I think I'm saying that if their hips were of gargantuan width, they'd sway awkwardly. Or some other counter-evolutionary consequence.

Or perhaps having one's head distorted and squeezed through a narrow gap is somehow evolutionarily beneficial. Could be the FPP links are right on the money, and we humans do a lot better when our lives are kick-started by that sort of physical manipulation.

The latter seems a little doubtful to me, though.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:27 PM on November 24, 2003

When I went into labor with my son, I had no intention of doing a C-section. We'd been to all the birthing classes, chose a very progressive hospital with birth suites, including baths, balls, chairs and other devices designed to help with labor in the "natural" way. And after 27 hours, when my heart rate dropped to 40, and the baby's shot up to 145...it was c-section or the possiblity that one, or both of us would die.

Now granted, I wept like a little girl, because initially I felt as though I had "failed" the birthing test, as it were...but I tell ya, I'm pretty glad that both he and I are here now. I know the procedure saved his life...and may very well have saved mine.

That being said, any study that start off talking about adults doing "infant regression" and then presumes to make inferences about the actual infant experience has lost my vote for the Nobel Prize.
posted by dejah420 at 9:07 PM on November 24, 2003

I was a C-section baby. I would take offense to this thread, but to be downright fair, I am rather effed up. *shrug* I wouldn't blame the first minutes of my life on that though. I'd prefer to the blame the moments in my life when I had choices and made stupid ones. Y'know. The moments of my life after teething and potty training. I did pretty good on those, but then everything went downhill from there.

It's silly of anyone to blame cesarean sections for anything but the discreet physical scar.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:31 PM on November 24, 2003

Just noting that the links are completely wacky birth regression studies that smack of pseudoscience. From
what I could see of my daughter's c-section, it was a lot
more pleasant for her to be lifted out of my wife than
it would have been to be squeezed out feet first. We all
share the basic trauma of birth -- ejected from a warm,
comfortable place to a big bright one. Since 100 percent
of people have been born, I think we can safely say there
is a 100 percent causal link to ALL future psychological and physical conditions. 100 percent of psychopaths were born.
100 percent of sociopaths were born. 100 percent of manic depressives were born. I think we are on to something here.
Of course, there is a 100 percent correlation between being born and being an artist, a lover, a saint, as well. Hmmm
posted by Slagman at 9:50 PM on November 24, 2003

... and dying.
posted by dg at 10:29 PM on November 24, 2003

My partner had an emergency c-section three weeks ago.

After 4 hours of second stage labour with nothing but gas and air to dull the pain, emergency surgery was the only option.

It turns out that the shape of my boys head and the shape of my partners pelvis meant that there was no way he was going to get out the front door.

Without a c-section it is very probable that they would have died (my partner lost a shed load of blood).

I'm not really prepared to go looking for some emotional crutch for my child to fall back on in future life by investigating the claims of a bunch of quacks (that last article, I ask you, what is the point). Moreover, any therapist who writes a book that advocates therapy is, in my opinion, feathering their own nest.

Life is tough however you came out of the womb. If a woman is able and willing to have a natural child birth, this is fantastic. If she requires an emergency cesarian, be thankful the procedure exists, it may well have saved a life.

(Mum and boy are now doing fine BTW)
posted by davehat at 2:37 AM on November 25, 2003

A good friend of mine had her baby "naturally", but she should have had a C-section. Unfortunately, the doctors miscalculated the size of her son, and she had major complications after birth due to the enormous size of his head. By the time they realized the seriousness of the situation, he was in the middle of the birth canal, and it was too late to surgically intervene.

Sometimes they are needed, and not done, so I guess it goes both ways.
posted by greengrl at 5:52 AM on November 25, 2003

You can't lift anything (including your baby and/or your other children), you can't drive (for six weeks), you're bedridden, must be careful you don't engage in any activity likely to split your stitches - the list goes on and on.

My wife had 2 c-sections. One after 25 hours of painful labor with no progress, and one after she was diagnosed with a condition which mandated it. In neither of these cases was she 'bedridden' for more than one day.
posted by glenwood at 7:21 AM on November 25, 2003

A lot depends on the mother's pelvis. My first child weighed over 9 pounds (no, no diabetes) and I had no problem delivering even tho I am only five feet tall. Other women might have trouble having a seven pound baby because their pelvis is shaped differently (If I remember correctly there are three basic pelvic shapes.)

During my second labor a nurse cheerfully informed me that 80% of women my height or shorter had c-sections. How stupid.
posted by konolia at 7:57 AM on November 25, 2003

Has anyone researched the potential psychological benefits of the C-section, for example, with regard to avoiding vaginal tearing?

Also: Roll on teleportation.
posted by biffa at 8:46 AM on November 25, 2003

biffa- I'm trying to find the Associated Press article I read earlier this year about the growing trend of women, with no medical need, choosing to have c-sections for reasons ranging from the ability to skip labor altogether to being able to arrange the child's birthday and not having the face loss of vaginal sensitivity, but I'm coming up empty. Anyone else see that? I thought it was weirdly fascinating/alarming. Consider a potential egg of tomorrow, made into a baby using anonymously donated sperm, fertilized externally, impregnated into a surrogate mother, who then has a scheduled c-section before the baby is handed over to the person who contributed the egg. Just one more possible scenario in an increasingly weird world.

As a side note: my significant other was delivered by c-section because he wouldn't come out, he was over a month late and showing no progress toward labour. If for no other reason I'm glad the procedure exists for all the situations like his and worse. (He's still that stubborn today, if you're curious. I couldn't say for sure if it's a result of the way he was born, or the other way around.)
posted by nelleish at 9:32 AM on November 25, 2003

nelleish - I think I recall seeing something about that AP article myself. This article shows C-sections on the rise in the UK, and suggests a link with falling numbers of midwives (though doesn't suggest either factor is causative of the other). There are some other potentially interesting web links from the article.
posted by biffa at 9:52 AM on November 25, 2003

Does anyone remember the story of the young girl who died because some loon thought she needed to be "rebirthed" and she suffocated in the process? Don't think it was because she was born c section, but these exercises reminded me of that.

I have two young girls who were born via c section AND not breast feed. They should be sickly monsters by some peoples expectations. Through some miracle they are cute, intelligent and healthy. I do not agree with medically unecessary c sections or even inducing labor for any other reason than it is dangerous not to. Sometimes however, science is our friend.
posted by domino at 12:26 PM on November 25, 2003

nelleish, not the article from AP but similar?

Too posh to push? That being a recent thread [Frank Magazine[.ca] old forums, now lost to the ether] regarding Rebecca Eckler from the National Post, who went out of province, because no doctor in Ontario wanted to perform a voluntary c-section. Her reason for getting a c-section? She didn't want to go through a possible 48 hour delivery. Her [Rebecca Eckler] article in the National Post of Tuesday, October 21, 2003 [$4.60 Cndn. pay per view unless you've subscribed [yah, fuhgeddouboudit]]. In the article, she mentions her doctor who performed the c-section "hot". If you do a search of her name in the archives section, her topics will boggle your mind!

Read what Sasha, the eye weekly's sex columnist writes about some female journalists from the Globe & Mail and the National Post. Yes, Leah McLaren and Rebecca Eckler. [It's an op-ed piece, but Sasha rocks]

Bottom line, Eckler's middle name is vanity. That will affect the child more than any c-section.
posted by alicesshoe at 3:35 PM on November 26, 2003

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