Chapter 24: Getting medical help
Cesarean surgery (cesarean section)
Rarely, to save the life of a baby or mother, a
baby must be born by surgery. For example,
if the baby is in an impossible birth position,
surgery is the only way to get the baby out.
Surgery is also necessary when a baby and
mother are in immediate danger, like when
there is a detached placenta or a prolapsed cord.
Surgery is sometimes used to deliver the baby
of a mother with HIV. Being born by surgery
makes it less likely the baby will be infected with HIV during birth.
However, cesarean surgery can cause serious problems. For example, the
woman may have an allergic reaction to anesthetic. The cut in her belly may not
heal easily or may get infected. The woman may have trouble breastfeeding or
caring for her baby because recovering from surgery is more difficult. A woman
who has a cesarean birth needs extra rest, care, and help.
Note: Cesarean surgery is used too often! Some doctors prefer
cesarean surgery because they can choose the time of birth themselves,
or because they charge more money for it. In some places, most
women have babies by surgery. But cesarean surgery should only
be used if it is needed for the health of the mother or baby.
Symphysiotomy is a cut in the middle of the mother’s pubic bone.
It is used to open a pelvis that is very small so a baby can be
born vaginally. It is easier to do than a cesarean, but it is only
done in a few places in the world because it does not always
work. It can also cause problems, including a cut in the bladder
or lifetime disability.
Transfusion (giving blood through an IV)
A woman who bleeds heavily after a birth or from other problems (like an unsafe
abortion) may need to be given blood through an IV. In some places you must
bring a family member who may be able to
give blood for her.
When a woman has lost a
lot of blood, a transfusion
may save her life.
Transfusions should only be used in
emergencies, because blood may carry
infections like hepatitis and HIV. If a woman
gets blood from someone with an infection,
she is likely to get that infection too. In most
places, blood is tested for serious illnesses, but
there is always a small chance of getting sick
from a transfusion.
A Book for Midwives (2010)