10 (+1) Things Not To Say To A C Section Mum

Whatever the Telegraph may think, most Caesarean sections don’t happen because “posh” women want to schedule them around their manicures or business meetings. They are usually undesirable, often unexpected and occasionally downright terrifying. I was lucky enough to come out of my emergency c section with a healthy baby, without the surgery the outcome would have been very different.

Yet still, I got some pretty unhelpful comments. Some were well meant, but in the fog of the situation they seemed to hint at something else, something I was already deeply troubled by – that perhaps a caesarean birth, maybe anything other than an all natural drug free birth, was seen as a failure. Others just came right out with that opinion.

Whatever your own beliefs about childbirth, there is absolutely nothing to be gained by making a woman feel bad about how her baby arrived in the world, especially not if it’s only just happened. So here are my top ten things NOT to say to a C section mum and how they might actually sound to her:

1- What they say:
All That Matters Is A Healthy Baby.

What it sounds like:
It doesn’t matter if you had a hideous time, shut up about it and stop being so ungrateful.

I was acutely aware of how lucky I was to have a healthy baby. But that isn’t the only thing that matters. The future wellbeing of that healthy baby is symbiotically linked to the health of the mother. If she is physically or emotionally damaged by a traumatic birth, that matters to the baby. Oh and another thing – a mother is still a human being, if she is hurting that matters too.

2- What they say:
Oh what a shame

What it sounds like:
What a shame you didn’t do it properly. What a shame you missed out on one of those wonderful “birth experiences”. What a shame modern medicine saved your lives. (?)

3-What they say:
It’s not really birth

What it sounds like:
You didn’t give birth to your baby, he/she was just surgically extracted.

There was a baby in my belly, it came out of a hole in body. Therefore I gave birth.  It may have been a sun roof delivery and assisted by a surgeon rather than a midwife but it was still a birth and no less special for the angle of exit.

4-What they say:

You should have tried yoga, hypnobirthing, a doula, a waterbirth etc. etc.

What it sounds like:
You didn’t do it right, so it’s kind of your own fault.

Actually I did try all those things (well apart from the doula). They can be great and many women who’ve had straightforward births swear by them. But no individual can ever know for sure if it was the yoga/hypnosis etc. that made the difference, it could have just been good luck. None of these things offers a 100% guarantee. If dumb luck deals you a really bad hand then no amount of affirmations or pregnancy sun salutations will change that and plenty of women have perfectly straightforward births without any of them.

5-What they say:

I never thought that would happen to you!

What is sounds like:
I always thought women only have C sections because they don’t try hard enough, are too posh to push or freak out at the first twinge of pain. I didn’t think you were like that… but now I’m wondering if you are.

6-What they say:

It was probably an unnecaesarearn!

What it sounds like:
I don’t believe that your C section really saved anyone’s life. You were tricked into it by the doctors and too weak or stupid to stand up for yourself.

If a women tells you she had a life saving c section then to her, it was necessary. Perhaps is was possible that a vaginal birth would have been fine too, but if she decided to endure major surgery rather than take any risk with her own life or her baby’s, then it was necessary to her. End of.

7-What they say
Let me tell you about my amazing home waterbirth…

What it sounds like:
Hey look at what you could have won if you were just like wonderful me!!

It’s great that many women have had wonderful experiences of birth, but those of us who haven’t really don’t need them ramming down our throats uninvited. Many women feel a sense of loss at not having had the kind of birth they hoped for. Maybe in time hearing positive stories will be helpful, but it has to be about what the listener wants to hear, not what about the speaker wants to say. If a woman asks you to share your story, do. If not, shut the heck up for now and go find a facebook group to share it with.

8-What they say:

That’s nothing, listen to my horror story…

What it sounds like:
Stop whining! What happened to me was way worse, you have no right to be upset.

There are no medals for childbirth martyrdom, there is no ranking system for who had it worst. A two hour labour may sound like a dream if you were in labour for days but for the woman concerned it could have been brutal and shocking. A C section may sound like an easy option if you endured a difficult forceps delivery and vice versa. If someone believes their experience was traumatic, then to them, it was.

9-What they say:
You’ll always have to have C sections now you know.

What it sounds like:
You have no options now.

This might have been the case in the past but it certainly isn’t now. The way the surgery is now normally done means the scar is quite strong and many women go on to have straightforward vaginal births. About 70% of VBACs (vaginal birth after caesarean) are successful. In some cases another Caesarean may be advised but most C section mums should have a choice over future births.

10- What they say:
Well at least you didn’t have to have stitches!

What I say
Ok I know what you mean and yes, most c section mums won’t have had to endure a tear or cut “down there”, I know they can be pretty awful, but er, what exactly do you think is holding my entire abdomen together right now? 


oh and one last one, this may just be me though-

11- Well, I know it was a big baby but you’re so tall it should have been fine!

Yes, I’m tall, but my baby was a whopping 33% bigger than the average baby girl. I’d have to be 7′ 7″ (232 cms) for the two to compare. But even ignoring that – here’s the thing, er, the length of the mothers limbs isn’t exactly the vital statistic here is it??

PS. Of course every woman’s experience is different – do you have any more “things not to say” to add to the list? Do you disagree with any of mine? Comments are always very welcome!

19 responses to “10 (+1) Things Not To Say To A C Section Mum”

  1. I think this is a very good list of things that are unhelpful things to say to a mum who has had a caesarean and I suspect in all honesty I may have said one or two of them without really thinking about how it comes across. The stitches one makes me shake my head in disbelief though – as you say, what on earth do people think is holding your abdomen together?!


  2. What a great list, I totally agree with all of them. I too had an emergency section and some people comment – oh you opted for the sun roof option! Thankfully I am ok with the fact I had a section, it was necessary and my baby was delivered healthily and I recovered quickly.


  3. Fab list! I had an emergency c-section with my first and am having an elective with my second in May. I heard many of these after having Zoe – made me so mad! So this time I am NOT letting ANYONE tell me that I didn't try hard enough, or that I was 'too posh to push', or anything else to be honest. My body, my baby. Ha!
    Over here from the #MaternityMatters linky 🙂
    Anna x


  4. So true. I am still pregnant with my first child, waiting for the birth to begin anytime now. I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum most of my pregnancy. I was severely ill for month, despite of high amounts of antiemetic drugs I could not keep anything down. I needed iv-fluids and lost 12 kg weight. I heard many unhelpful comments about that too, and in fact some are just on your list: No. 1, 2, 5 and 8.
    About No. 4: If I hear anyone telling me “have you tried ginger?” again, I just want to puke in her face…
    “Pregnancy is not a disease” is one of my favorites, too. For most women this is surely true, but for me it is not. I am waiting to be cured within the next three weeks, hoping for a natural, uncomplicated birth. But if it turns out different (again), I will be grateful for a surgical treatment that saves me and my baby – just as the medical treatment did before (and pass on your list to my friends 😉 ).


  5. Thanks for commenting. I think to some extent the way something is said is very important too. Eg. I know the healthy baby comment is a big bug bear for a lot of women who have had traumatic births of any kind. If its said by someone who is being supportive and taking time to listen to and help the mother then it may be fine, the problem is it often comes across as dismissing the mothers feelings and or accusing her of not caring about her baby.


  6. Thanks for commenting, glad you and baby are were fine how silly that some people think an emergency CS was something you opted for!


  7. Thanks for commenting and I agree with you on all that! I had an elective second time and can honestly say it was a wonderful and very healing experience (emotionaly and physically ) you go!


  8. Oh you poor thing with the HG that sounds awful 😦 I hadn't thought about the “pregnancy is not a disease” comment. Of course pregnancy itself isn't but it certainly can bring plenty of disease states with it. I was lucky enough to have two very straightforward pregnancies but I'll still always carry a pair of c section scars and an autoimmune condition as a result of them! Thanks for commenting


  9. Having had an emergency section and 2 VBACs I've come to the conclusion that they're both pretty gruesome and the only acceptable thing for anyone to say afterwards is 'Wow, well done you! Shall I put the kettle on?'


  10. Having not had a csection I've not experienced this but I can understand just how annoying all of these comments can sound. xx


  11. so true – this is the only acceptable response to any kind of birth! (our poor kettle broke twice after we had our second!)


  12. Totally agree! Thankfully I didn't get too many comments after my emergency C-section and I was just glad that my gorgeous daughter was fine – and that I hadn't had to fight to get an epidural as a result, which was something which had really worried me.


  13. I had to have a csection with my first son and I got a lot of these said to me. As well as been told I wasn't a real mother because I hadn't given birth naturally and them saying I must of been “too posh to push” or was plain lazy. I can also back up you point on number 9 because I have managed to have 3 successful VBAC's without yoga, waterbirth or anything that would make “the prefect birth”. I had my first VBAC even though my doctor advised I have another csection, but I wasn't going to willing put myself through a section without trying to do it naturally. Having experienced both types of birth I can honestly say I would have a natural birth any day of week because it is a walk in the park compared to the recovery of a csection.


  14. Oh gosh, yes yes yes! I have heard them all. I know that my first two babies (and me) were saved by my sections. My 3rd was planned and I had a few comments about that too. And Elise. I wanted a vbac and couldn't have one. So my sections each have a story and each time I hear comments like this I want to scream. Thank you SO much for sharing this, I am about to share it on my FB page.
    Thank you for linking up to #MaternityMatters and I am so sorry I'm late in replying x x x


  15. Good points; such a serious life saving option. Women should definitely feel victorious and not defeated! A don't list of what not to say, for sure. Thanks for sharing. #MaternityMatters


  16. Here I am now with my two week old beautiful son and my very own c-section scar. The umbilical cord was wrapped around both his neck and his shoulder, his heart rate dropped several times and there was no chance for a save vaginal birth. I am very grateful that the doctors and my midwife reacted right and saved my baby. I will have your list in mind and be prepared for any unwelcome comment, as I know the c-section was the only way to go if I didn't want to risk my babys life!


  17. Great list! – I had an unplanned c-section with my first, having planned a home birth and certainly remember being told “All that Matters..” (which is why I love Rebecca Schiller's book!). I was so sure I was going to feel disappointed if that happened but I had wonderful midwives and I felt it really was my decision to transfer in, and everyone was so kind and really explained what was happening that I felt ok with it all. Just goes to show that compassionate care makes such a difference whatever birth you have…


  18. Congratulations on your new little one and thank you so much for coming back to update me! I'm so glad to hear you were well cared for and I hope that the sickness is now gone and you are healing well and enjoying the first amazing weeks x


  19. Absolutely, good care from someone who has chance to get to know you makes all the difference I'm sure. I was lucky enough to have this second time around and it was wonderful I just wish it was available to everyone. I suspect things would have been a lot better for me, in least in terms of how I coped afterwards, if I'd had consistent and understanding care the first time. Where I live you can only really get that if you are willing/able to choose a home birth


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