Even with the joy of a new baby, some birth stories can leave women with regrets. Journalist Lisa Ling wants expectant moms who are considering an elective C-section to learn from her difficult experience.
“In all honesty, I regret it,” Ling writes in an essay for her series “This Is Birth.”
“C-sections… come with a host of potential health risks to both mothers and babies. Something I, unfortunately had to learn first-hand, the hard way.”
When Ling gave birth to her first daughter, Jett, in 2013, she had no choice: Doctors ordered a C-section because an ultrasound revealed the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck.
The birth went smoothly and there were no complications, and Ling found that she liked the “predictability of a planned delivery,” she wrote.
So when she became pregnant again, Ling knew she wanted to have another scheduled surgery, though she could have had a vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC).
She gave birth to her second daughter, Ray, on June 6, but found the recovery much more difficult than the first time around.
“I had developed an extremely painful infection and it was awful,” Ling wrote. “It took a whole month for the wound to completely close. … I'm grateful that my baby's OK, and that I'm OK now, but it was not easy.”
The family suspects Ling contracted the infection at the hospital.
The number of babies born via C-section in the U.S. soared from about 21 percent in 1996 to almost 33 percent in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate has now settled at about 32 percent.
The World Health Organization considers the ideal rate to be 10-15 percent for the health of women and babies. Like any surgery, a C-section comes with risk, but its popularity has risen “in an unprecedented way” in the last decades because the procedure is convenient and bypasses much of the pain of birth.
There's been "considerable effort" in recent years to reduce the number of elective C-sections, the CDC reports. They make up about 2.5 percent of all births in the United States, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It notes that unless there’s a medical necessity, vaginal delivery is “safe and appropriate” and doctors should recommend it to patients.