Cesarean births and a woman with a sexual abuse history just don’t mix. Cesareans often do land in the lap of a woman with a sexual abuse history because of the many triggers that are similar to abuse. Sensations such as pain mixed witha drugged sensation, feeling out of control, authority figures determining what happens to your body, domination with language, removal of clothing, restriction due to IV or fetal monitoring etc. When all of these “normal” aspects of birth occur women with a sexual abuse history will start to feel unsafe. This translates into a birth that does not progress. We have a very hard time giving birth if we are receiving information that we are not safe. When the birth does not progress interventions fly into place and often a cesarean birth is the outcome.
The Cesarean also has elements of trauma – woman are often immobilized, both arms are connected to IV – I have met many women who call this the crucifixion – the people in the room are masked, the room is cold, you are not able to run or fight or even move, most times women have to ask to have partners or midwives present. The birth of the baby is followed by separation of the mother and baby and then the healing process is supposed to happen. Most times women with a sexual abuse history that have then endured a cesarean are left feeling disconnected, dissociated and fearful. Often this is not recognized for what it is – post traumatic stress – and the mother is left to just find a place to try to understand her birth experience. This happens every single day. If you have a sexual abuse history prepare yourself. There are ways to create a safe haven for yourself and your baby for your birth. Think about:
- who will be present
- where will you labour and give birth
- smells, sights, safety – can people go in and out or are you in a secure place?
- how do drugs make you feel?
- what language is important for you to hear during labour?
Ultimately how do you want to be treated during labour and how do you want your baby to be treated ?
These are some easy ways to effect the outcome of your labour. If you have had a cesarean and then remembered a history of sexual abuse that is a gift. Work with it because it is life altering and opening and truly a gift.