Leigh’s story

I witnessed a traumatic birth at the age of 19 in a Romanian hospital but was unaware of the real impact this had until I became pregnant myself. Then this upsetting experience coupled with various birth stories of my friends’ unplanned caesareans made me realise I needed to know more about what I might be facing. Of 13 friends already with children, 7 had had unplanned caesareans, all had been very frightened and some severely traumatised by the experience. A throw-away comment from an obstetrician about the impact of a pre-existing back problem which suggested that I may not cope with a protracted labour spurred me on to further research. Initially I focused on finding out more about caesarean birth and how to avoid it, a difficult task in itself as most birth books dedicate a couple of pages at most to caesareans. As I talked to more and more mothers, including some doctors themselves planning a caesarean I came to realise that there was a lot more to it than just waiting to see what happened on the day.

Following extensive medical research I reached the conclusion that, for me, a prophylactic caesarean would be my preference and being able to demonstrate that my decision was based on sound research I gained agreement for a pre-labour caesarean at 39.4 weeks. That is not to say that the debate with with 3 separate practitioners was not without it’s problems, it took months before I had confirmation that my request would be granted.

Following the birth of my first daughter after a planned caesarean I created www.csections.org to share my research with others. The website now has around 2000 unique visitors a month. My second daughter was another planned caesarean though she decided to come early and after 8 hours of early labour she was born by caesarean at 38.3 weeks. Both births were thrilling, I held both girls in theatre and tried feeding them in the recovery room. While I found walking uncomfortable for the first few days there have been no lasting effects and I exclusively breastfed both girls, only stopping when they decided it was time.

I believe such a positive experience was born out of a combination of good preparation, realistic views of recovery and just a bit of luck. My experience led me to go on to write Caesarean Birth: A positive approach to preparation and recovery in order to share everything I learnt with other mothers to be.

For me planned caesareans were the right choice. Following the development of www.csections.org I began working closely with several organisations co-founding the Coalition for Childbirth Autonomy where together we campaign for accurate information and support for women in childbirth and we help to bring about change through stakeholder involvement on the UK NICE Guideline on Caesarean Section and other related guidelines (Antenatal Care, Antenatal and Postnatal Mental Health, Intrapartum Care, Pre-term Births and Multiple Births – and their related Quality Standards).

Finally I am a mum not a doctor. A wonderful network of specialists – midwives, obstetricians and anaesthetists, have participated in the development of this website. I am confident everything you read is accurate and based on up-to-date research.

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