C-section Scars Can Be Psychological Too: ‘What Did I Do Wrong?’

By Alison Bowen
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Many things lead to a C-section, and each experience is different. Those who counsel postpartum women say that for many, the memory lingers.

CHICAGO

Emily Keber-Goldrick remembers the moment she was told she needed a C-section.

The Bucktown mom initially hoped for a water birth, with a plan detailed down to lavender oil. But while pregnant with her son Rowan in 2014, she developed pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy complication. Doctors monitored her closely, she said, and after 28 hours of labor and with her son’s heart rate dropping, a C-section was advised.

“I just burst into tears,” said Keber-Goldrick, 32. She felt, she said, she had failed.

Not every woman feels troubled by her birth experience. But having a C-section, one in three births nationally, is one reason women seek mental health help following a delivery, say Chicago mental health professionals.

Mental health struggles after a C-section range from guilt and anxiety to trauma from feeling their life, or the life of their baby, was in danger.

“The emergency nature of C-sections leads them to feel out of control, as well as fear that there will be harm to the baby or themselves,” said Dr. Sarah Allen, a Chicago psychologist and director of the Postpartum Depression Alliance of Illinois, which runs self-care workshops for women.

Many things lead to a C-section, and each experience is different. Those who counsel postpartum women say that for many, the memory lingers.

“They couldn’t have that rite of passage that birth is supposed to be,” Allen said. “Women start ruminating or questioning themselves, ‘What did I do wrong? What could I have done to prevent this?'”

Allen has counseled postpartum women for two decades and said many report anxiety or depression, at least in part, because of their C-section. And she notes a difference between postpartum depression and a woman experiencing trauma rooted in a C-section alone.

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