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How to Avoid Cesarean Birth

One of the most mainstream media outlets in the United States has come out against the indiscriminate use of cesarean section and labor induction. In addition to putting mother and baby at risk with unnecessary surgery, C-sections can disrupt the bond between them. It eliminates the mother's natural release of oxytocin during labor, birth and the first contact with the newborn, and it makes both of them too sick to enjoy that natural connection that occurs when the baby, left to her own instincts, makes her way to her mother's breast for the first time.

In this column on CNN, Elizabeth Cohen suggests Five Ways to Avoid a C-Section. More important, she begins this good advice with information about how C-sections can harm the health of mother and baby. And, she touches on the bonding problems that can result from interfering with the natural release of oxytocin during labor, birth and immediately afterwards.

Cohen quotes a mom who's angry that she had an unnecessary C-section: "It affected the quality of my mothering. I had trouble bonding with my son."

This anecdote is backed by scientific studies:

Women who undergo cesareans feel less positive about the experience and have less physical and emotional energy for mothering.[i]

They're less likely ever to breast-feed. They take longer to begin to interact with their babies, and tend to interact less with them once they're back home. In fact, they don't feel as positive about their newborns at all.[ii]

This negativity lingers. In one study, a month after cesarean birth, the mothers had much less eye-to-eye contact with their babies.[iii]

Mothers who give birth vaginally, on the other hand, tend to be more emotionally involved in taking care of their babies and more attached to them.[iv]

See also, The Mother/Baby Attachment Gap.

[i] Marut J.S., Mercer R.T., The cesarean birth experience: implications for nursing. Birth Defects Orig Artic Ser. 1981;17(6):129-52.

[ii] DiMatteo, M. Robin; Morton, Sally C.; Lepper, Heidi S.; Damush, Teresa M.; et al., Cesarean childbirth and psychosocial outcomes: A meta-analysis. Health Psychology. 15(4), Jul 1996, 303-314.

[iii] Trowell J., Possible effects of emergency caesarian section on the mother--child relationship. Early Hum Dev. 1982 Oct;7(1):41-51.

[iv] Gathwala G, Narayanan I., Influence of cesarean section on mother-baby interaction. Indian Pediatr. 1991 Jan;28(1):45-50.