Caesarean birth and your mental health


Caesarean birth and your mental health

by Peta Collins, Registered Nurse and Registered Midwife, Victoria, Australia


After a caesarean birth, you may experience a wide range of emotions: joy, amazement, relief, or even a sense of being overwhelmed or fearful. Your caesarean birth may have been planned in advance or decided some time during labour. Some women feel confident and proud about their caesarean birth. Others may have found the experience distressing or even traumatic. Perhaps your hopes and plans did not work out, or you were fearful for the safety of yourself or your baby.


The first days

No matter how well-prepared you are for parenthood, the early days with a new baby are difficult for most women. It is natural to feel particularly overwhelmed, tearful and sad around the third day after your caesarean. This is known as the ‘Baby Blues’ and is a normal response to the hormonal changes that occur in the hours and days after every birth. You are also recovering from surgery, learning to breastfeed, adjusting to different sleep patterns and possibly inundated with visitors and advice - so it’s understandable that you may find this challenging.


Postnatal depression and anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder

Around 1 in 7 new mums will experience postnatal depression and anxiety (PND). Your caesarean birth alone does not increase your risk of PND. However if you have previously experienced anxiety and depression, fertility issues or miscarriage, or if your birth was traumatic, you are at increased risk. Symptoms vary but many women describe feeling constantly depressed or tearful, anxious or panicked, exhausted, and self-critical. Feeling this way can be a frightening and isolating experience. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) refers to a range of symptoms that people may develop after a traumatic event, including birth. Some women find themselves re-living the event through unwanted memories or nightmares, others avoid activities or places associated with the birth due to the feelings that emerge. There are very effective treatments for PND and PTSD.


How can I look after my mental health postnatally?

In the early days after your baby is born, it’s important to keep up with the pain medication prescribed by your doctor. This will enable better healing. Eat plenty of healthy food and get some gentle exercise every day - even if it’s just a slow walk around the block with your baby in the pram. Ensure you rest whenever the baby rests and reduce outside stress in your life. Stay social: talk regularly about your feelings with non-judgemental friends and family, and new parent groups.


Getting help

It can be confronting to ask for help. You may feel ashamed or guilty. Many women hope that negative feelings will ‘just go away on their own’. However, if you find yourself needing extra support, the first step is talking to a professional. Discussing your birth and early parenting experiences gives you a chance to be heard and acknowledged and can bring clarity and relief. Your General Practitioner or Maternal and Child Health Nurse are ideal, and can put you in touch with a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist. Treatment for mental illness after birth includes lifestyle changes, one-to-one talking therapies, support groups and sometimes medication. While this can be challenging, the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can recover. Taking good care of yourself means you can take good care of your baby - allowing you to thrive as a family.


If this post has raised issues for you, further information is available at:


Peta Collins (Clinical Midwife Specialist).

Peta has worked as midwife in both private and public hospitals for over 20 years.The most
rewarding aspect of her role is seeing healthy, happy families leave the hospital to begin their
new adventures as parents.