Do Shay Mitchell’s C-Section Fears Reinforce All-Too Persistent Stereotypes?

In 2019, is a C-section really that big of a deal? This incredibly common procedure is still dogged by myths and misinformation, including the bewildering idea that it’s somehow less real than vaginal birth — and incredibly traumatic.

Shay Mitchell has been giving fans a look into her pregnancy via her Youtube series, Almost Ready. This week, viewers got to see the actress grapple with the news that she may have to have a C-section because the baby was breech at 38 weeks. The rest of the episode covers some of the ways the couple tries to get the baby to flip, including acupuncture and a visit to a prenatal chiropractor. The final step is to go to the hospital for an external cephalic version (ECV), a procedure where the baby is manually moved by a doctor by pressing on the belly.

Mitchell is understandably anxious, especially because ECV can be painful and there is a slight risk it may result in an emergency C-section. But, on the way to the hospital, she starts crying talking about how the idea of any C-section, emergency or not, stresses her out.

“I can’t even talk about this. It’s actually gonna make me upset,” she tells her boyfriend, Matte Babel. She continues to tear up talking about her fears of being bedridden or unable to pick up her baby.

When they get to the hospital, we learn that the baby has, indeed, flipped on her own, greatly reducing Mitchell’s odds of needing a C-section. Then the episode ends.

Realistically, we know this is a Youtube show played for drama. (And we hope they were also just playing up drama earlier in the series when Babel told Mitchell he’d rather she not get an epidural.) But, entertainment value and Mitchell’s genuine fears aside, the show itself doesn’t attempt to correct any of the fears Mitchell expresses. While C-sections are different from vaginal births in many ways, both have postpartum complications women need to be mindful of. And, in most cases, women can lift and hold their baby after a C-section — and likely won’t be bed-bound. Of course, there are exceptions, but there are exceptions for all types of birth. The C-section recovery time in terms of returning to exercise postpartum looks different than that of vaginal birth, too, but not that different (women who gave birth vaginally shouldn’t be jogging three weeks after the baby is born either).

While we can’t fault Mitchell for her concerns over needing a C-section, we can fault the series for doing little to combat the pervasive ideas that C-sections are to be feared and dreaded rather than regarded as an often life-saving procedure for mom and baby. After all, even babies who aren’t breech, and even moms who planned the most ahead — Mitchell included — may wind up needing an unplanned C-section because it’s medically necessary. The last thing these moms (and any moms who gave birth via C-section) need is a sense of shame or guilt during the already all-too stressful and busy first few weeks of a baby’s life.

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