PARENTS

I Requested A Caesarean To Keep Me Sane

19/05/2011 09:37 | Updated 22 May 2015

I requested a caesarean to keep me saneRex Features Model release

The 'too posh to push' headline is back with news that more middle class mums are requesting C sections. But there can be another side to the story, as Helen Redfern, explains...

'Seven months pregnant sitting in the consultant's room at my local hospital and I'm weeping and begging for a caesarean section.

In the early weeks when I discovered I was pregnant for the second time my GP was reassuring saying I'd have "options" regarding the birth. Now the consultant is suggesting he won't see me again until I'm a week overdue.

That doesn't sound like options to me. That sounds exactly like what happened last time.

Thankfully my husband is with me, so he explains, whilst I sob away, my history.

It didn't take the consultant long to write "post-traumatic stress" into my notes. I stopped sobbing in surprise.

I've always believed the roots of my postnatal depression lay in the type of delivery I experienced. What I hadn't realised, until recently, was that the depression itself was probably related to post traumatic stress.

The birth of my first child nearly eight years ago was so traumatic it still affects me now and has reduced me to tears while researching this article. I had an assisted birth rather than a natural birth. The trauma wasn't just related to the nature of the delivery.

The Birth Trauma Association website says, "a complicated mix of objective and subjective factors" are involved. For me it was being induced, a high level of medical intervention throughout, the feeling I had lost control, lack of dignity and poor postnatal care.

For my friend Jenny Beattie it was a "postpartum haemorrhage and subsequent blood transfusion" which made for a traumatic delivery and which she says, "might not have been the only circumstantial reasons for the postnatal depression but certainly the major one".

For months afterwards I had flashbacks about the birth. The fact I'd had an epidural at the time didn't spare me from pain later on. My insides were quickly catching up and I re-lived the sensation and experience every time I closed my eyes.

I'd had no romantic illusions about giving birth. I just didn't expect it to be so rough and to end up feeling violated. As this was my first time I thought it normal and didn't voice my feelings to anyone. Except to one doctor. Who looked at her watch and said she had other patients to see.

I got to a point where I was going to bed dreading waking up the next morning. I was anxious and unhappy; I'd lost my ability to cope and thought very dark things indeed.

I adore and love my son and always have – even in those dark moments I knew I loved him unconditionally – but that first year and a half was the worst time of my life.

When my son was 18 months old I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and I realised I wasn't an awful mother, just having a tough time. Gradually, over the next five years I recovered. Then I found myself thinking I was strong enough to do it all over again. But I was anxious and was referred to a consultant.

As I saw the consultant write those three words, post traumatic stress, I was, quite honestly surprised and a little shocked. Post traumatic stress? From giving birth?

But, says The Birth Trauma Association, a charity helping women traumatised by birth, "women can suffer extreme psychological distress as a consequence of their childbirth experience." The Birth Trauma Association stresses that the disorder is not the same as postnatal depression although it might be wrongly diagnosed as such.

I firmly believe, from my own experiences and a huge dollop of hindsight, I had childbirth related post traumatic stress in the beginning which then caused the depression. Whatever the label I knew I never, ever wanted to experience anything like it again.

In the end I got my caesarean. The consultant listened and showed genuine empathy with the situation. I knew the negatives associated with the procedure and despite what the media suggest I knew it wasn't the easy option. I could have taken a gamble and ended up with a natural birth save for a few mouthfuls of gas and air. But my mental health wasn't something I was willing to risk. A caesarean meant I was in control and if I was in control my depression wouldn't come back.

It is two and a half years since I was sat, crying in the consultant's office. I've never felt guilt for going the surgery route, before or since. The birth of my second child was such a different experience I cried happily throughout the operation. I've been happy ever since.

Needless to say I would have loved to have had two natural labours with little medical intervention. I am convinced, however, that having a caesarean section second time around kept me sane. I don't spend any time dwelling on what might have been.'

Have you been in a similar situation to Helen?

Do you believe you suffered from post birth trauma?

Did you request a C section second time round?

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