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Too Scared to Push? Fear of Childbirth Leads to Rise in C-Sections

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Following a traumatic birth experience, a rising number of women in the UK are requesting cesarean sections because they are scared to undergo labor again, reports The Guardian. While there are no statistics from the National Health Service on the problem, maternity staff at many hospitals have reported a rise over the past two or three years, and midwives say that more and more women are so badly traumatized by a first delivery that they are postponing having additional children for years -- or even forgoing having any more at all.

Researchers at the Better Births Centre at Liverpool University are studying the increase in numbers of traumatized women to determine why some births become complicated and traumatic. A few of the possible reasons suggested in the article include a shortage of midwives paired with a rising birth rate, leading to a lack of support during labor, the greater medicalization of birth (including inductions, epidurals, and c-sections), and, according to one doctor quoted, women’s decreasing ability to tolerate pain.

To counter the rise in demand for c-sections, the National Health Service is setting up specialist support services. A number of hospitals are introducing counseling services run by specially trained midwives to help women work through their fears and examine the pros and cons of natural and surgical births. As someone who benefitted from just a single session of similar counseling, I’m all for it, especially if it helps women avoid major surgery. I had a really tough hospital birth with my first son, which left me not only with an episiotomy that wouldn’t fully heal for years, but a tremendous sense of failure. I had hoped for a natural, drug-free birth, and while I didn’t end up with a c-section, I felt like I was incidental to my son’s birth, barely acknowledged by the medical team present. When I became pregnant with my second son, I was terrified of a repeat bad experience, so I did everything I could to avoid one. For me, instead of signing up for a c-section, that meant changing care providers (first to a hospital-based midwife and ultimately to a pair of homebirth midwives) and speaking with a counselor who helped me work through my feelings of disappointment and failure and determine how I could better prepare myself for the birth I wanted the second time around.

Moms who have had a traumatic birth experience, were you afraid to give birth again? How did you get up the courage to try again?

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