PARENTING CONFESSION: 'If I had my time again, I wouldn't have a vaginal birth.'

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

If I had my time again, I wouldn't have a vaginal birth. Plain and simple.

The ongoing trauma it has caused to my body has impacted me on so many different levels. It’s affected the way I exercise. It’s impacted my sex life. And it’s taken a toll on my mental health.

When I had my first child, I was completely ignorant about birth. Nobody really shares the harsher realities of what birthing can be like, because you don’t want to freak out other expectant women.

Sure, I didn’t really think that pushing out a watermelon was going to be particularly fun, but I was totally and utterly clueless about the process and the potential risks involved. 

Watch: The impact of birth trauma on physical and mental health. Post continues after video.

Video via ABC News.

I intended to bring this baby into the world in the most calm and peaceful way possible. I had visions of having a drug-free water birth, surrounded by candles while Enya played in the background.


The reality was different.

I remember going to one of my final midwife appointments around the 38-week mark and her saying the baby was measuring 44 weeks. It was a big baby, and I was fairly petite.

When I went into labour at 39 weeks, I had complete trust in the midwives looking after me. But I also felt this immense pressure to have a natural delivery.

For 26 hours I waded through the labour until finally asking for an epidural. I remember the anaesthetist running through the procedure, potential risks and side effects.

I gave my consent, and he administered those blissful, pain-annihilating drugs. 

As the afternoon stretched on, things didn’t seem to be progressing. Eventually I was taken to an operating theatre where an obstetrician I had never met before performed an episiotomy and instrumental vaginal birth with forceps.

I had no idea about the risks of instrumental vaginal births, such as a third or fourth-degree perineal tear. The risk is greater for women having their first vaginal birth and is higher with forceps than with vacuum.

I think that at that point, had I known what was to come, I would have insisted on having a caesarean.

After the birth, I was told I had a third-degree tear. I also soon discovered I had no control over my bladder.

When I told the midwife, she gave me a brochure which said, ‘one in three women who ever had a baby wet themselves’. This was completely new territory for me. And yet one in three of the women I knew who had children wet themselves? I couldn’t believe it.


Those first few months after my baby arrived were tough. Aside from navigating parenthood for the first time, I was also grappling with being incontinent. 

I started planning each day based on toilet stops on the way to a destination. I read online forums by other women talking about their ongoing struggles with incontinence and other post-birth issues I was also experiencing, like pain during sex. I was shattered.

Worst of all, I felt like I couldn’t speak to my husband about it, my embarrassment and shame preventing me from opening up.

For one year, I went to a women’s continence physio and thankfully; she changed my life. She explained how to do pelvic floor exercises and slowly things began to improve.

Eight years on, I still have to brace my pelvic floor muscles before I cough or sneeze. I never ever get on a trampoline and I avoid certain types of activity like running. Sometimes I feel anxious that I might leak during sex, which can be a real mood-killer.

I’ve had two other children via caesarean and for me personally, the recovery was much easier than with the vaginal birth.

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When the NSW inquiry into the prevalence of birth trauma began in June this year and other women’s stories came to light, I felt both comforted in knowing I wasn’t alone in all of this, but also sad that so many women had also suffered birth trauma.

The inquiry received more than 4000 submissions. 

One issue raised was that women need to be empowered with information about what could go wrong during childbirth, so they’re not making uninformed decisions in a terrifying situation. I wholeheartedly agree. Women should be given information about procedures such as instrumental deliveries long before they give birth, so they can make up their mind as to what’s right for them.

I know that given my time again, I would do things differently. My scars may have healed on the surface, but inside I’ll never be the same.

If this story has raised issues for you, you can find support below:

Lifeline 13 11 14 (24/7) or text 0477 13 11 14. Lifeline is a free 24/7 telephone crisis support service.

PANDA National Helpline (Monday to Saturday) 1300 726 306 or website. PANDA's National Perinatal Mental Health Helpline is Australia's only free national helpline for people affected by changes to their mental health and emotional wellbeing during the perinatal period. Support is available throughout pregnancy up until the baby is 12 months old. 

Feature Image: Getty.