The other night I was listening to a pregnant woman reiterate that she wanted to keep her vagina “pristine” so she had scheduled a third C-section rather than wait for the traditional contractions that signal the onset of labor. In fact, over 35% of American women have C-sections, with more women scheduling C-sections now than ever before, and often even if there is no medical necessity to do so. In fact, C-sections are more dangerous and present more health risks to both baby and mother than do vaginal births.
In this age of plastic surgery, it should come as no surprise that women want their vaginas to stay young forever as well. In both the US and the UK, C-section rates are highest among wealthy women. Physicians around the world generally agree that 15% of all births should be Cs, but the current rate is more than double that and rising.
It’s true vaginal births are more painful, but the recovery on a C-section is so much longer. Vaginal births have pain measured in hours; it can take months to recover from a C. And you get a scar.
The profit motive is another culprit because Cs are more expensive than vaginal births. I think, however, that the biggest single reason for the increase is that women, especially urban women, are spooked. There is the unknown time aspect of a vaginal birth which rattles some because they can’t plan for it. There is also the certain pain before the epidural can be administered, and it seems we’d rather have our pain later, rather than now. (In the 40s, women literally slept through childbirth, via heavy anesthesia, but somehow they were still able to deliver vaginally.)
And it’s also this question of a pristine vagina. Some women won’t let their husbands see the baby come out, lest it destroy his sense of her perfect vagina as a sex object. How will he ever get hard again? Plus, there is the debate as to whether it will feel different when they have sex post vaginal birth. How springy and resilient is your vagina? It’s one of those things you have to go through to know.
Gloria Steinem noted in the 70s that women are taught that their life’s pinnacle is getting a man to fall in love with them, but it still applies today. I worry that women think that a vaginal birth will cause their husbands to fall out of love, so they sub-consciously avoid it for that reason, and at greater medical risk. We’re not even giving our men a chance on the new vagina, we’re just telling him to leave well enough alone. But if you’re going to grow old together, you are going to see each other age. There’s something romantic in that image, and the comfort of a relationship that is okay with the evolving nature of the vagina too.