Emotional Scars After C-Section Birth – 8 Common Challenging Emotions

Emotional Scars After C-Section Birth - 8 Common Challenging Emotions

All pregnant women imagine the day they will give birth and wonder how they will feel when they meet their baby.

When the reality is very different to what you had hoped for, it is normal to experience a huge range of emotions.

Some women may feel their c-section was necessary and recover quite quickly both physically and emotionally.

For many women the surgery has a less positive impact on their emotional health.

Emotional Scars After A C-Section

Here are 8 emotions you may be left to deal with after a c-section:

#1: Shock

You may have felt out of control and very scared when you were told you needed to have a c-section. Even if you had been prepared for all possibilities, the reality of changing plans can be a shock.

Only a few percent of women plan to have a c-section, and most occur at some point after labour has begun. A c-section after labour has already started is called an emergency c-section.

There is often a sense of urgency once it has been decided a c-section is needed, and this can add a lot of stress to the situation.

#2: Guilt

We know so much about the benefits of a vaginal birth. Not achieving one can create a huge sense of guilt for women who didn’t get to have that experience. You may wonder what you could’ve done differently to achieve a vaginal birth.

Many women feel guilty for having negative feelings about their baby’s birth, which is a really hard place to be. You may be told by many well-meaning people all that matters is your baby is healthy. This can add to your guilt because while you are very thankful for your healthy baby, you still feel ripped off about her birth.

Read about how a healthy baby isn’t all that matters during childbirth.

#3: Failure

We’re often told our bodies are perfectly designed to labour and give birth naturally, yet you might be wondering why your body didn’t do what it was meant to. You may want to know what went wrong or why you couldn’t ‘do it right’.

Some women who feel as though they failed to give birth naturally will plan to have c-sections in the future, in order to avoid feeling let down again if a vaginal birth doesn’t eventuate.

#4: Loss

Most women are hopeful their baby’s birth will be a positive and empowering experience. Having this very anticipated experience disappear can cause feelings of loss and grief, as you mourn the birth you missed out on.

You may feel you missed out on the rite of passage into motherhood, especially if you were unable to hold your baby immediately or for some time after your c-section.

You may have had a particular idea in your mind about that first meeting and it can be difficult when this image has been replaced with an unfamiliar experience to try and process.

#5: Detachment

Having a surgical event replace what is meant to be an empowering and personal experience can lead to a sense of detachment, either in the early moments after your baby’s birth or in the weeks following. Many mothers report feeling a sense their baby isn’t really theirs, or they weren’t physically involved in ‘giving birth’ to their baby.

Newborns demand a lot of time and energy from mothers, and you may find it hard to process how you are actually feeling about your c-section experience. In some situations, it becomes easier to detach yourself from your baby and the birth experience rather than process your feelings, because it is too upsetting.

#6: Trauma

Some women experience their c-section as a traumatic event. Why this happens depends on many factors and may not be the same for any two women. Often, a c-section happens with a sense of urgency, and this can be stressful and frightening. You may feel powerless and not involved in the process of your baby’s birth.

You may have felt disregarded by your care provider, perhaps even violated by the surgery.

Women who describe their c-section birth as traumatic have usually experienced fear and a huge sense of powerlessness.

Read more about birth trauma and how to get support.

#7: Anger & Resentment

It’s not uncommon for women to feel angry after having a c-section and ask ‘why me?’.

It may take some time to process the experience and to begin to ask questions about why it actually happened.

You may feel angry at a particular care provider or your support person, especially if you feel your c-section was likely the result of intervention or lack of support.

Some mothers feel resentment towards their baby for being the cause of her pain and distress.

It’s common to have little energy and be physically unable to cope with the demands of looking after a newborn. A c-section mama may resent her baby for adding to her responsibilities.

 #8: Low Self Esteem

Some women will find themselves confronted by the constant reminder of their c-section by the scar left behind.

Not only is it something they must take care of until it has healed – adding to the demands on their energy – it is visibly the reminder of their body not working the way they hoped.

Occasionally partners are affected by the changes to a woman’s body after a c-section. This may be in part due to their own trauma following the birth of their baby. You might feel your partner is rejecting you because of your scar.

There is no doubt the immediate beginning to motherhood is different between a woman having a c-section and that after a vaginal birth. The c-section mother may be groggy and exhausted, unable to hold her baby or even see her baby for some time. This important bonding time following the birth can be missed, and add to the wide range of feelings including failure, anger and guilt.

Women can be glad and relieved their baby is born and well, but experiencing polar opposite feelings can be very complex, leading to an uneasy and challenging start to parenting. It’s important to recognise your feelings as being a normal part of the emotional healing process after a c-section. Always seek help from a trusted care provider if you feel you need support.

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Sam McCulloch enjoyed talking so much about birth she decided to become a birth educator and doula, supporting parents in making informed choices about their birth experience. In her spare time she writes novels. She is mother to three beautiful little humans.


  1. So true Sam if only people could understand the emotional scars with emergency c sections. Two months later I’m all of the above. The drugs combined with pain leave you in those precious moments in a blur. My husband doesnt understand what is wrong with me I was never the same after emergency csection. It’s devasting for me as a woman I hate my body now.it was shocking to be pregnant and dream of a beautiful birthday experience to be flat on a table,numb, pain,immobile groggy etc. I will never havery second child now as I fear repeat

  2. Emergency c section 2 and a bit years ago. Every time I get my period the cramps and scar pain take me back to the table and I feel helpless and sick and scared all over again. I asked the surgeon if they could fully anethatise me but they refused.

  3. 10 months past, and still a heavy sadness. i didn’t feel as if the baby was mine- my body was so confused as it didn’t finish the process.

    1. Same, my twins are almost 10 months and there is a very heavy sadness when i allow myself to think about it. and a disturbing feeling that i have unfinished business. It’s as if my mind hasnt caught up to my body. i still wonder are these my kids? i read that labor and the birthing process prepares the body and mind for motherhood. Being induced, pushing for 3 hours and ending in csection just threw my whole being into a state of confusion . there is a disconnect and a yearning for the experience that i long to have but never will.

  4. I felt the same and the only be thing which really helped was giving birth again 3 year later at a different hospital and it was a much more positive intimate calm sweet experience which I could savour and just enjoy- the second time is much better!

  5. I feel as strongly about my emergency csection more than two years on. I didn’t give birth to my son – the surgeon did. I only recognise him as my son because he recognises me as his mother. Breastfeeding didn’t start well due to his posterior tongue tie so I felt a double failure and did all I could to get milk production going until his tie was revised and he is still breastfed. My body is doing what is the biological norm, and this successfully. I have a strong need to actually give birth still. For me, my pregnancy experience never felt completed. This far after the experience, which I experienced as a violation, it seems impossible to talk about it with anyone face to face.

  6. A friend of mine had a C 3 years ago…and never got over it emotionally to the point where she tried to take her own life 3 years after the fact. Fortunately, thank god, she is still alive, but she may never have children again just to avoid unwanted surgery, from what she had posted on social media…

  7. When I had my first emergency c section years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night alone and unable to turn over in pain. No call button was placed where I could reach. I’ll condense this part and move on to pain management. I was in the hospital for five days recovery, which was brutal. Not once was I ever asked if I was in pain or given a cute diagram to rate my pain. I did receive pain medicine, shots for the first day or two and then pills (the first ones gave me nightmares). I had major surgery years later, (gallbladder) but the recovery was a “walk in the park” compared to the pain of the c sections. I should have started this comment with the statement: NO ONE ASKED IF I WAS OK after the emergency c section, did any debriefing etc.

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