When Vaginal Birth Becomes Cesarean Birth (and how to cope with it)

The day is finally here! Your birth day! 

You've waited for this for months. You've read all the books, you've attended all the classes, you've done everything you could think of to ensure your birth goes just how you want it. 

You get to the hospital and continue to labour there for a few hours, and then a few more hours, and still, nothing. The doctor comes in and tells you any number of things, from baby being too big to fit through your pelvis, to baby is presenting breech, to baby is in distress, and really anything in between. 

You need a c-section.

All of that planning, all of that hope for a natural birth, feels like it just went out the window. Not only do you not get the birth you dreamed of, but there's also a risk for your baby too?! Now that's just unfair.  

Being told you need a cesarean birth sucks, any woman who has needed one can tell you that.  The usual response you'll get from people is "healthy mother, healthy baby, that's all that matters", which is pretty dismissive of the mother's feelings. Of course the health of the baby is the most important thing, we do need everyone to be safe and healthy thank you very much, but it's also not the only thing. 

Women who have no choice but to have a cesarean birth can feel like a failure; you weren't able to do the thing your body was supposed to do. You may see it as something that was taken away from you, you may feel discouraged or disappointed.  

And you know what? That's okay. You have every right to feel your feelings. It's not fair that this had to happen this way. Thank God for competent medical staff who helped lower any risks to yours and your baby's lives, but it blows that you didn't get your ideal birth. 

Your feelings are valid.

It's important to remember though, that you still birthed your baby. It was different than expected, but your baby grew inside of, and was born out of your body. Cesarean birth is still birth. 

There are things you can do before labour to help avoid a c-section, and there are things you can do after a c-section to help cope with it. 

A selfie I took in the hospital waiting room, waiting for one of my clients who was having an emergency c-section

A selfie I took in the hospital waiting room, waiting for one of my clients who was having an emergency c-section

Before Labour

Sometimes, you just can't prevent a c-section, it'll happen if it really needs to. But there are some steps you can take to minimize your risk. 

-Make sure you like & trust your care provider, don't hire someone who is keen on rushing labour along

-Have support, whether from your partner, a doula, or a trusted friend. You need to be supported in all of your decisions 

-Educate yourself about the birth process. Informed consent is what I tell my clients is the most important thing. You need to know what is going on in and around your body. If a doctor wants to do a procedure, ask any question you can about it

-Be healthy. It sounds straightforward enough, but honestly, eating right and exercising is vital. If you're obese or have high blood pressure or diabetes, your risk of a c-section greatly increases

-Avoid being induced unless there is a medical reason. If the reasoning is 'you're tired of being pregnant' , please just hold on a bit longer until your baby is done cooking. Trying to make your body go into labour when it isn't ready will oftentimes bring on a cesarean.

-Stay home until you're in active labour. Know when to go to the hospital. If you go too early on, you run the risk of them trying to speed your labour up with interventions that can cause c-sections

-Don't set your heart on a specific plan for how your birth will go. Birth rarely goes as planned. That's why I call them 'Birth Wish Lists' instead of 'Birth Plans'. Know that even if you do everything right, something unforeseen can pop up and disappoint you, so it's best not to raise expectations too high and be aware of any possibility


During/After C-Section

If something unexpected happens, and you wind up having a surgical birth you can still do things to make the most out of the situation

-Ask to view the birth with a mirror (unless you have a weak stomach, or just plain don't want to see that), it would be a very memorable experience

-Ask to see/hold your baby right away. Immediately after birth, babies need to bond with their mamas, skin-to-skin is the best way and it's totally doable after a c-section, the nurses just need to know your wishes

-Talk to someone. Anyone who will listen, your partner, doula, or friend will do, but if that's not good enough you can even see a specialist. It's important to process your birth and sometimes just talking through things, and having a listening ear, can do wonders

-Rebirthing. There is this beautiful practice used by women who have experienced birth traumas, which is essentially taking a nice warm bath (after your incision has healed) with your baby and just processing the birth. It can be a very powerful tool to help cope. There's a lovely article about it here


Cesarean birth is not fun, but they will always be a possibility. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. I hope none of you are ever in a situation where you will need a c-section, but if you are I hope that you will be well looked after, both physically and emotionally. Just remember that however you feel about it afterwards is valid. Now go and enjoy that baby of yours!