The Birth Trauma Association‘s Kim Thomas explains:

When a woman has had a traumatic experience giving birth, the thought of having to go through it again can be terrifying. But for some women, the option of a planned caesarean can make all the difference. Not every woman wants it, but those who do usually tell us that it’s a calmer and happier experience, with some saying that it helps them heal from their earlier traumatic birth. Knowing that they can have a caesarean if they ask for it means that some women who can’t face labour again are able to have a second child. That’s something to be celebrated, not denigrated.

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In this March 3, 2018 mumsnet discussion (Childbirth – Anyone NEVER doing it again?), caesarean birth was cited as the preferred choice of many women for avoiding further birth trauma:

  • I asked for and had a planned section which was a lovely, calm experience and so much easier to recover from.
  • Had a second after 6 yrs and requested a c section which was excellent.
  • My DD2 wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t been guaranteed a CS for a second baby.
  • I was injured so badly the first time I was told I’m not allowed to have a vaginal birth ever again. I had more babies because I knew it would be a c-section (and my breech twins made sure of that anyway). I haven’t forgotten all the pain and stress, and no, if I were allowed to I would never have a vaginal birth again.
  • I had a traumatic first birth including 3rd degree tear. I had an elective c-section for my second child 4 years later and it was fantastic.
  • One friend had intensive counselling, hypnobirth cds and reassurance that she would have a c-section. It took years of all of that before she changed her mind.
  • “…still can’t ‘put myself’ in the memories of DS1’s birth, it was horrific. Elective C section for DS2 was a wonderful, calm experience, no more traumatic than a dental check up… having a good second birth experience has healed me somewhat.
  • I got pregnant a year after a very traumatic birth. I lost the baby I think through stress of realising I’d have to go through it all over again. I sought counselling and two years later had my second child in a planned cesarean. Secretly, I think of the birth of my first son as the worst day of my life, and my second as the best day ever.
  • The only way I will have another is by elcs. Even then, I know I would spend the entire pregnancy absolutely terrified that I’d go into labour early and have to go through labour again. A part of me died that day, I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. I still cry myself to sleep thinking about it.

2011 NICE guidance CG132 recommends:
For women requesting a CS, if after discussion and offer of support (including perinatal mental health support for women with anxiety about childbirth), a vaginal birth is still not an acceptable option, offer a planned CS with their next baby.”

Yet shockingly, many women who request a caesarean following previous birth trauma are refused this birth choice, particularly in hospitals with prohibitive policies or caesarean rate targets in place, and they are left facing further anxiety and stress.

This needs to change.

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Thank you to all the mothers who were willing to share their private moments, and for helping to communicate that many surgical births are a very positive outcome, for all the family.

Please see the Celebrating Caesarean Week PRESS RELEASE for more information.

  • Produced by author and journalist Pauline Hull