The Hollywood Mom Factor
Still, many women are relieved to repeat the procedure. Alice Ann Howard's first baby was born via emergency c-section after going into fetal distress. When she became pregnant again, the Richmond, Virginia, mom stuck with a cesarean birth despite her doctor's blessing to try a VBAC. "I knew VBAC risks were low, but I'd never forgive myself if something went wrong. A planned c-section felt safer, and I knew what to expect," she says.
Indeed, one of the top reasons women request nonmedical cesareans is uncertainty about what to expect during labor and delivery. And celebrity moms like Britney Spears, who reportedly made her plans to deliver her babies via c-section because the alternative sounded too painful, have somewhat glamorized the procedure. "These celebs give young women a false perception that surgery is an easy and risk-free way to give birth," says Jamois.
Women think, "Why be in labor for 20 hours if I can plan for a 30-minute procedure?" But the truth is that the majority of vaginal births don't entail horrifically long labors or scary complications. "Giving birth is a natural process, and most expectant moms would be able to experience an uncomplicated birth if they -- and their doctors -- had more faith in what women's bodies can do," says Parents advisor Katherine Camacho Carr, PhD, president of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
A woman's right to choose
Ultimately, moms like Terrie Montelongo argue that a mother has a right to choose her delivery method -- and more and more doctors agree. "An uncomplicated vaginal delivery is ideal, but since we can't accurately predict who will or won't have problems, a cesarean is a reasonable request as long as the patient is educated about the risks," says Mary D'Alton, MD, NIH panel chairperson and chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York.
Certainly, with every pregnant woman facing a 30 percent chance of a cesarean, it's smart to be familiar with both modes of delivery. "What's important is that women are given the right tools to make informed decisions," say Dr. Faro. Of course, in the end, having a healthy baby matters so much more than how your child entered the world.