Healing From A Traumatic Cesarean

8 Dec

Women’s emotional reactions and adjustment to cesarean birth vary widely. Although some women recover fairly quickly and accept the surgical birth as a necessary step to a healthy baby and to becoming a mother, others experience various degrees of sadness, disappointment, anger, violation, loss of self-esteem, guilt, depression, and sometimes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some women experience their birth as a traumatic event. Often they are not aware of how the trauma has impacted their life, their sense of self and their feelings about mothering. Because a newborn demands so much care and attention mothers often do not have the time to process these feelings and they can linger for a long time. It is normal for a mother to appreciate the fact that her birth by cesarean resulted in a healthy baby while still feeling sad, confused, or angry about the experience itself. Friends, family, and even partners of mothers who have had an emotionally difficult cesarean often do not understand why mothers don’t just “move on,” or why they “obsess” about their birth experience.

concept for love, family, and harmony. mother hugging baby tenderly in monochrome

The effects of trauma after childbirth include flashbacks of the birth, nightmares, avoiding and feeling stressed by reminders of the birth, feeling edgy, and experiencing panic attacks. Often these symptoms are confused with postpartum depression by mothers, doctors and mental health providers.

It is normal for a mother to appreciate the fact that her birth by cesarean resulted in a healthy baby while still feeling sad, confused, or angry about the experience itself. Mothers who have an unexpected cesarean, have general anesthesia, or are separated from their infants are especially vulnerable. A mother’s satisfaction with her birth experience depends on whether or not she was included in the decisions made on her behalf, if she was treated kindly and with respect by her caregivers, if she received medical interventions she feels were unnecessary, and/or if she felt she was “in control” of her birth.

Friends, family, and even partners of mothers who have had an emotionally difficult cesarean often do not understand why mothers don’t just “move on” or why they “obsess” about their birth experience. It is important that, whenever you are ready, you find the right time, a safe place, and a person you trust to resolve some of these feelings. It might be weeks, months, or years after your cesarean, or even during a subsequent pregnancy, before you will be able to talk about your traumatic birth.

If you are planning to have another baby and plan to labor for a VBAC, you will feel better about that pregnancy and birth if you first process your feelings about the difficult cesarean you’ve already experienced. Find out how you might be able to avoid the recurrence of those events. You can find out more about healing from a traumatic cesarean from the websites listed below.

 Resources

PATTCH, Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth
The Birth Trauma Association of the UK
Trauma and Birth Stress New Zealand (TABS)
Solace for Mothers
Birth Trauma Association of Canada

 

4 Responses to “Healing From A Traumatic Cesarean”

  1. Angie March 22, 2017 at 10:48 pm #

    This article was 100% spot on! As a mother who had 2 vaginals and an unexpected emergency c section for her third, I am completely not over the traumatic situation. My doctors were wonderful but we as women always feel a need to explain things away like that, no matter how great they were I still felt left out and as though the situation was out of my control! My hospital kept my baby with me but I was so doped up and out of it it was about 2 hours before I could hold her. I came home and had a newborn along with my 2 other school aged children and knew something was wrong. I developed a terrible infection with excruciating pain and now that my baby is 5 months still have pain above my incision site. I am also pregnant again and thrilled but my husband and family just assume I should get another c section and I am not ok with this but they feel it’s selfish to take a risk since I have my children to come home to, especially since my doctor recommends have yet another c section. I wish people would listen to moms and understand why they may not want a c section again instead of just making us seem selfish or crazy!

  2. rita amaefule January 4, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    Thanks for this information

    • Nicette January 5, 2017 at 2:11 am #

      I’m glad you found this information helpful, Rita.

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