Approximately one in three babies in Australia are born via caesarian section. Whether planned or emergency, an overwhelming number of women give birth this way, and yet many of us have no idea what it feels like or what the experience entails.
While the rate of caesarian births has steadily increased in the last few decades, the current zeitgeist seems focused on the idea of a c-section being the ‘easy way out’ of labour and childbirth. If you didn’t birth a baby from your vagina – did you really give birth at all?
Of course, surgical births are anything but ‘easy’. Having major abdominal surgery brings with it a unique set of risks, and an extended recovery period. The decision to deliver via c-section is often based on signs that indicate a vaginal birth will be risky to the health of the mother or baby – signs like the baby being in a breech position, being very large, or not moving down the birth canal. The priority then, is far more about ensuring a safe and positive birth experience than anything else.
As someone who’s never given birth, I cannot fathom that there is an ‘easy’ way to get a real, human baby out of your body and into the world. So I asked five women to share what it really feels like to have a c-section, and their stories were astounding:
“It feels like nothing I’ve ever felt before – like stomach muscles are missing from where they should be.” – Amelia*
“I had an emergency c-section about three weeks ago. The process was daunting, especially preparing for a natural birth and getting to 9.5 cm dilated and the doctor telling you an emergency c-section was needed.
“I don’t think you get time to think about fear with an emergency c-section. Everything happens so quickly. All I remember thinking was that I hoped everything was OK with my baby. You don’t tend to think about yourself at that point. I didn’t think about myself until about five days after the birth when it hit me that my surgery was life threatening and I nearly died in front of my son and fiancé.
Listen: Rebecca Judd speaks about the big differences between the process of a c-section and a natural birth, having experienced both. Post continues after audio.
“The pain is sh*t. It’s hard to explain. It feels like nothing I’ve ever felt before (to be fair it was my first surgery). It feels like stomach muscles are missing from where they should be… so every time you get to lift yourself up, instead of using your ‘abs’, you have to use your arms to get yourself up.
“It’s frustrating because it’s an everyday movement that isn’t as easy as it should be. It becomes restrictive.
“Going to the bathroom is bloody horrible. You feel like everything is going to burst open and it’s scary. They don’t tell us much about after the pregnancy. And what to expect… if anything goes wrong. And that’s hard.
“With recovery time I’m not 100% sure because my uterus pretty much gave up and I started bleeding out about three hours after the c-section… so I needed further surgery.”
“Afterwards it’s a sharp pain that feels like you are tearing your skin.” – Fiona*
“My waters broke 3am and I went straight to hospital. I started labouring around 5am and was given drugs to induce the labour faster. I was quite comfortable and the pain was bearable, then the contractions started getting closer together.