Should we start calling C-sections 'belly births'?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

If everything went as planned, Tammy Biton would never have opted for a caesarean (or C-section). But due to medical complications, the 35 year-old transformational coach ended up not only having a C-section for the birth of her first baby, Ethan, but for her following children, Jonathan and Briella, too.

While Tammy didn't want the procedure, she also didn't like the way it was referred to.

"Personally, I think the term 'C-section' is cold and clinical," she says. She believes it carries a lot of negative associations that can increase women's fear about them.

Now a new term is hoping to bring power back to mamas who've given birth that way.

Instead of referring to such deliveries as 'C-sections', these mums are embracing the term 'belly births'.

"I love the idea of referring to C-sections as 'belly births'," says Tammy. "For me, the term 'C-section' creates a heavy sense in my chest, whereas 'belly birth' creates a lightness [that makes me] want to smile.

"And birth should make you smile, not leave you feeling heavy-hearted!"

Tammy's not the only mum keen to embrace this label. Take a quick peek on Instagram and you'll see over 1500 posts with the hashtag #bellybirth, with other forms of social media heaving with references to it, too.

So, can a simple change in name really empower women? And should we start referring to C-sections in this way?

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Midwife Amanda Bude from Groovy Babies thinks this is a great idea.

"Obviously positive language has a massive impact on reducing or removing fear and anxiety towards any birth. That in itself empowers any mum-to- be."

She says many mothers feel that having a C-section is "robbing" them of having had a vaginal birth. "But I believe if a mum has a positive birth experience, supportive care provider, and educated birth preparation, then they are less likely to feel shame and disappointment about how their baby arrived."

And, she says, a simple change in name can help aid that positive birth experience.

Furthermore, she believes calling a 'C-section' a 'belly birth' helps de-medicalise the issue.

Kirstin Bouse agrees the term has merit. The clinical psychologist is also the author of The Conscious Mother.

She says that, unlike the term 'C-section', calling that kind of birth a 'belly birth' has "no stigma attached".

However, she says referring to it by a different name probably won't be enough to counter the stigma of such deliveries altogether.

While the experts can see benefits to referring to C-sections as 'belly births', not everyone agrees.

Elisabeth, who is a mother of one, isn't a fan.

"I think that having to find another name for a C-section reinforces the idea that a C-section is somehow less of a birth than pushing a baby through a birth canal when, in fact, a C-section is an absolute miracle."

Ursula, who's a mother of three, agrees. She doesn't think that changing the name of the procedure is enough to "change the overall view on giving birth by C-section".

Consequently, Ursula believes we should work on changing the stigma associated with giving birth via C-section – regardless of what we call it.

But Tammy believes calling C-sections 'belly births' is at least a step in the right direction to reducing that stigma.

At the very least, she says, women should have a choice about what to call the way they gave birth – which is why she's such a big supporter of the term 'belly births'.

"That one shift in language can have a massive impact on the birthing mother and the way she views her birth experience."