What’s it like to have a caesarean after a vaginal birth? 

This is probably one of the questions I get asked the most, not only by clients but from other birth workers and even my family and friends! 

I guess for many people, they might experience one or the other (don’t forget that vaginal birth is absolutely possible after an abdominal birth!). 

So what did I find from both of my birth experiences? 

Before the birth 

In terms of preparation, both of my children were born prematurely so I hadn’t really fully gotten things ready at home and it also meant that I did end up having conversations with obstetrics (only as my waters broke with Charlotte but of course at length with Williams birth due to my diagnosis of ICP / requesting a caesarean. 

I had been incredibly focused on my hypnobirthing techniques and had written my birth plans and I was incredibly focused on staying within my zone when it came to both of my babies – their labours started in exactly the same way and whilst Charlotte’s labour progressed, I became quite unwell with a gallstone attack (this was undiagnosed at the time) and therefore I found that I really needed to prepare for Williams birth in a completely different way.

With a vaginal birth, it almost felt like completely letting go whereas with a caesarean – the build up felt the opposite. I was wanting to chat through my options and whilst I felt it important to stay in my zone – I almost wanted the distraction of talking to friends, family and my doula whilst I waited to go down to the theatre. 

The Birth 

I loved labour, I felt incredibly in tune with my body and I very much felt the same during William’s birth too – I felt incredibly connected to my babies and really tuned into my instincts to help lead me to do what I felt was right. 

Charlotte was born in a hospital and whilst the room had quite a medicalised look and feel – I was able to switch my mind off and stay focused on being in my birthing zone and this was still so important for me when it came to Williams birth – I’d never been in a theatre before and I was determined that whilst having a spinal block I stay focused, whilst preparing for the caesarean to start, there was a moment where I felt a little out of control and my breathing and visualisation helped me just as powerfully as it had done during Charlotte’s vaginal birth. 

Craig, my husband, played a huge role in the births of both of our children – he was my primary focus just as both of our babies were born. We worked as a team and whilst there were more checks done on William after his birth – we were very quickly able to create our little nook. 

The one thing I would say about having a caesarean was that I did feel quite frustrated that I just wanted to move my arms and hold my baby easily – I totally got and understood why it was harder.. I’d just say it probably was one of the things that I found the hardest having experienced so much freedom to move about when Charlotte was born. Again, just focusing on cuddling William and being with Craig really made all the difference. 

The Postpartum Period 

This is the area that I get asked about the most – what’s it like to recover from a caesarean compared to a vaginal birth. 

One thing I need to say is that the circumstances around my second birth were very different compared to my first, I was suffering with undiagnosed gallstones which had resulted in multiple organ issues so I did end up having 2 surgeries within 6 weeks of William’s birth which did mean my recovery probably felt quite different…

This might sound weird but there were elements I felt so much happier with when it came to caesarean birth recovery – life was slower, I spent more time resting and relaxing in skin to skin with William in bed. I felt nurtured and held by my midwives, doula, Craig and family and friends – I genuinely believe that this slower period helped me to recover both physically and mentally from a very challenging 2 months. 

The recovery from the caesarean birth wasn’t actually as scary as what I thought it would be. At first standing up and walking around felty quite daunting, yet I very quickly gained my confidence – I get why people said it was important to walk about as soon as I was able, it really helped me build my confidence up straight away. 

Charlotte’s birth was a physiological vaginal birth with a few small stitches, I’ve got to admit, being a first time mum it was more the anxiety of not knowing what was normal which I found quite difficult (again, this did impact me a little bit after a caesarean with my 2nd birth as it was my first experience!).

Overall, both of my experiences were really positive with my taking care of my stitches, listening to my body and seeking out advice from my GP and midwives if I needed reassurance.

My biggest tips from experiencing both types of birth 

Have an action plan on how you can use your hypnobirthing anchors for different birthing scenarios.

Chat with your birth partner and midwife about your birth preferences and the ways you want them to support you. 

Have a bit of a plan for the postpartum period and consider what your recovery might look like and how to reach out to others.

Remember that your breathing techniques really are the best tool in all types of birth

You are very much in the driver’s seat regardless of the type of birth – everything is always your choice.