PATIENT VOICES
Three Kids and Three C-Sections

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Alison McCourt
Alison McCourt is a management consultant; she lives with her husband and their three kids in Boston.

Having children is one of the most special events of one’s life. That makes the risk involved for both the child and the mother that much more intimidating. I’ve had three kids and while I had hoped and planned for vaginal births, I needed cesarean section (C-section) procedures to deliver each one—and each for different reasons. Thankfully, I’ve had the guidance and advice I’ve needed to make the best decision for my child each time.

The Consequences of a Complicated Labor

I had chosen Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates for my Ob/Gyn practice based on their reputation and affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a well-respected hospital.

I needed their expertise. Delivering my first child was one of the most physically intense and emotional experiences of my life. I was in labor for 28 hours. At some point during labor, I developed a fever and the doctor realized my baby’s heart rate had dropped dangerously low, so she made the decision to perform an emergency cesarean to deliver the child.

My child was born healthy, but the recovery after getting a C-section was more than difficult than I expected. Labor is hard on your body, and so is any surgery. Since my labor was incredibly strenuous, recovering was particularly hard.

When I got pregnant with my second child, I spoke to my doctor about delivering my second child vaginally—which had been my intention with the first. There was some slight incremental risk with having a vaginal birth after cesarean (or VBAC), but I thought a vaginal delivery was better for the baby and for me. We planned for a VBAC but scheduled a C-section for 12 days after my due date “just in case.” I was advised to not carry longer than two weeks after the due date, and my doctor would not induce me given the prior C-section surgery.

But sure enough, my baby was late, leaving me to go through with my second C-section at the scheduled date. While that procedure wasn’t what I had hoped for in the birth of my second child, I never felt that my doctors had an agenda or tried to convince me to do something out of convenience. Giving birth and the decisions surrounding that experience are intensely personal, so it was important for me to feel I had the power to choose, as well as a safe space in which to trust my providers.

Getting My Third C-Section—And Making Another Big Decision

This balance between trusting my doctor’s advice and feeling empowered to make my own decision remained true for my third pregnancy. I was again confronted with the choice of trying once more to have a vaginal birth, or going ahead and getting a C-section. I spoke with my nurse as well as with my doctor to make this decision. Ironically, I’ve had the same nurse for every pregnancy, but a different doctor. The doctors who cared for me during my first two pregnancies both retired, but I’ve stayed at the same clinic for every birth because I’ve come to really trust the quality of care there.

In the end, I decided that after unsuccessfully trying twice to have a vaginal birth, I would opt for the C-section because of the lower risk for complications. I have the blessing of knowing my doctor would have supported me in either decision. Having the C-section also opened the door for getting another procedure I had been considering: a tubal ligation.

I had told my doctor my third child would be my last, so she offered to perform that procedure during the time I would have my C-section. I talked to my nurse and my doctor, and I got the opinions of friends and others in my network who have also had three or four kids. I knew some women whose husbands had chosen to get a vasectomy, so I talked with people about why they did one or the other before making my decision. Ultimately, I chose to get the tubal ligation, otherwise referred to as getting your tubes tied, during the C-section since there was no added recovery time and the added time in surgery was only about 10 minutes.

For the third time, I was able to give birth to a healthy child. The procedure went smoothly, and I’m grateful to have had the space to make the decisions I did.

Lessons From My Experience

Because getting C-section is so common, I think there is a misconception that it’s a minor surgery with no risk. But after going through several, I can attest that it’s a major surgical procedure. I couldn’t sit up afterwards, had trouble walking, and was surprised at how long my recovery took after my surgeries. All of which to say: I would caution anyone against assuming a C-section is just an easy way to sidestep labor.

But that being said, I understand there is such a huge range of ways different women approach how they want to give birth. Some women feel strongly about having a baby vaginally, for medical or other reasons, so finding a doctor to help them make a series of decisions that prioritize vaginal birth is really important to them. There are also multiple perspectives on why getting a C-section might be the best option, so I think it’s just so personal. In any case, finding a doctor who gives you the power to make an informed decision about what’s best for your labor and delivery, and ultimately for your child, is key.  

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THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.