In the latest research findings, a study has illuminated that delivery assisted with tools such as vacuums or forceps can actually be detrimental for the mother and child.

Meanwhile, doctors are picking up on a new approach to C-sections may bring more benefits to the mother and child, and another study has revealed one more advantage of breastfeeding for mothers who have undergone C-sections.

1. Using medical tools during delivery riskier than C-sections

Risks to the mother include post-partum haemorrhage which can heighten the probability of life-threatening shock and death.

This form of assisted delivery is primarily recommended in exceptional circumstances when the mother does not have sufficiently strong uterine contractions to expel the baby. It is also employed when there is evidence of foetal distress, in which case the infant may require assistance to pass through the birth canal.

The research was however limited to midpelvic surgeries, in which the infant’s head was engaged approximately midway in the pelvis. Therefore, these results may not reflect the effects of delivery assisted by forceps or vacuum when the baby is situated more inferiorly within the pelvis.

The likelihood of complications involving the newborn is elevated by approximately 80% when forceps or vacuums are utilised when compared to a conventional Caesarian delivery. This represents a significant proportion of children whose quality of life may be severely impaired by the physical trauma they are subjected to at birth due to extraction with forceps or a vacuum.

Birth trauma has several lasting consequences including but not limited to nerve injuries (particularly the brachial plexus, if the shoulders or neck are in a compromising position), fractures, and potential bleeding within the skull.

A particularly essential complication to keep in mind is infant hypoxia, which can affect the central nervous system and therefore lead to conditions such as cerebral palsy and learning difficulties later in life. As these conditions are long-lasting in nature, it is imperative to consider how the mechanism of delivery may help minimise these concerns.

2. A new approach – “natural” C-sections

A relatively novel technique, termed ‘natural C-section’, is increasingly gaining popularity amongst medical professionals. This is primarily due to the fact that it mirrors natural delivery – in that the infant has to attempt to extract itself through the surgical incision made in the abdomen as opposed to removing it.

Dr Felicity Plaat, a consultant anaesthetist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London, published a research paper on natural C-sections in 2008 and received “immediate and initially hostile” criticism. Critics believed the technique would result in more women asking for C-sections without medical requirement.

However, according to Dr Plaat, she says “natural caesarean makes the experience of birth much more satisfying for the increasing number of women who require a C-section.”

This procedure has established benefits; including an increased proclivity for the mother to breastfeed and building a stronger bond between mother and child.

3. Breastfeeding soothes pain after C-section

Chronic pain in the site of the surgical incision is a frequent complaint for women who undergo C-sections. An experimental study has revealed that breastfeeding for at least two consecutive months and more can protect women from chronic C-section pain.

As breastfeeding has additional advantages such as promoting optimal immunity and growth of the child, it is recommended more strongly when compared to commercial milk formulations.

"These preliminary results suggest that breastfeeding for more than two months protects against chronic post-Caesarean pain, with a threefold increase in the risk of chronic pain if breastfeeding is only maintained for two months or less," said the researchers of the study.

"Our study provides another good reason to encourage women to breastfeed," they added.

However, since the pain following a C-section is confounded by other factors such as tertiary education and anxiety levels, further research is required before a definite association between breastfeeding and reduced C-section pain can be validated. MIMS

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