More women delivering babies by C-section

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA "I cried because...I'd never had surgery and that scared me," said Leibold, 30, of North Liberty. "We kept hoping that we would be able to experience having him come on his own."

But, little Brady, now 4 months old, was breech, and a week before Leibold's due date there wasn't enough amniotic fluid to manipulate him into the right position.

Breech babies are just one of the reasons doctors routinely perform C-sections. And, Leibold is just one of a growing contingent of women to deliver their baby via C-section.

In 10 years, the proportion of American women having surgical deliveries jumped by 62 percent, from 800,000 women in 1995 to 1.3 million in 2005, according to a report released in February by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

That means nearly one in three pregnancies now ends with a C-section.

Dr. Jerry Yankowitz, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Iowa, said the increase can be explained partially by medical advancements that decrease the risk of a surgical delivery. A number of women choose to have C-sections out of convenience or to avoid some of the side effects of a vaginal delivery.

"You put it all together and it gives doctors more permission to do C-sections," said Yankowitz, 49. "Our threshold (for performing C-sections) today would be much much lower than any past decade."

If there is any doubt that a labor and delivery will progress without harm to the mother or child, doctors today are much more likely to consider a C-section.

That leaves literally millions of women recovering from C-sections every year. The experience can be isolating and disappointing for some.

"At that stage in your pregnancy you have this idea about how things are going to be," said Tracy Peterson, 29, of Springville. She was surprised to find out her daughter Addison was breech three weeks before her due date.

"When you (deliver vaginally) you feel amazed that your body can do that," said Peterson, who had a natural labor with her son. With a C-section "you kind of feel like it's not in your control. It was really strange." It helped to talk to friends who'd had C-sections, she said.

Women say it also helps to remember that a C-section was in the best interest of both their health and their baby's health.

"We felt that it was an option that would put neither baby at risk," said Jennifer Schulte, 28, of Cedar Rapids, who had a C-section nine months ago to deliver twins who were breech.

Schulte was happy with the experience.

"It wasn't traumatic for me. My kids weren't traumatized by it," she said. "If I never get to experience natural childbirth I'm OK with that."

Darah Hulse of Iowa City feels differently.

"The experience totally devastated me. It was so totally against what I wanted," said Hulse, 29, who'd planned a drug-free labor.

She ended up with a C-section after being induced two weeks early because of preeclampsia and laboring unsuccessfully for three days.

"At one point when I was pregnant I had told my mom that a C-section was the one thing I didn't think I would ever able to get over," she said. "I felt like I'd failed. There are still days when I feel like that."

Sixteen months later, though, Hulse has healed to the point that she and her husband are trying to have another baby. But this time she's hoping to avoid another C-section by delivering at home, unless complications make a hospital delivery necessary.

Leibold, too, would like to give labor and delivery a try.

"I'm glad that (C-sections are) an option in today's world. Obviously compared to old ages, if the child was breech and the mother tried to go through labor, complications for child and mother were fatal a lot of the time," she said.

But "if I don't have to do that again, I don't want to do that again."

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