Giving Birth after a Traumatic First Childbirth

Parent Q&A

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  • Addressing birth trauma in second pregnancy

    (21 replies)

    I’m newly pregnant with my second child and am curious if any mothers out there have tips for addressing birth trauma during a second pregnancy.

    I gave birth to my first daughter 4 years ago and labor & delivery did not go very smoothly for us. I think I recovered fairly well from it in the months after birth and I haven’t noticed any long term effects. However now that I’m pregnant again, I am finding myself digging up those memories and becoming more and more anxious about the birth itself. I can only assume this anxiety will keep growing as my due date approaches and would like to address it early so that I can go into this next birth feeling calm and confident. 

    Would love to hear from any moms who have dealt with this and what helped you:

    • Are there therapists that specialize in this area?
    • What about doulas? (I interviewed a few doulas during my first pregnancy but ultimately didn’t click with anyone. Would be open to working with one if I found the right fit.)
    • Are there techniques like hypnobirthing that might be helpful?
    • Books or other resources I may not be thinking of?

    Thanks in advance.

    So sorry to hear your first birth didn’t go well. I also had a rough first birth. I don’t have a specific therapist to recommend, but I really recommend the technique of EMDR in therapy. It definitely helped me work through a lot of the trauma.

    Hi, so sorry to hear of your challenging first birth and the anxiety you’re experiencing as your second approaches. I had a semi-traumatic birth experience a few years ago and worked with therapist/psychologist Maria St. John to process and heal from it, and she was amazingly supportive and very experienced in pregnancy/postpartum/mothering-related challenges. She’s based in Oakland and doing mainly Telehealth now. Here’s her website:

    Feel free to message me if you have any questions. Good luck!


    I had a very similar situation as you (but my boys were born two years apart). My first delivery (in NYC) was very "medicalized" and ended up with a lot of interventions from my very cold and uncaring OB; the whole experience was somewhat traumatic. Halfway through my second pregnancy I saw that the writing was on the wall that I was heading towards similar treatment (albeit with a different medical practice), and I switched to a very old-school "midwife." The experience was night and day -- she was wonderfully hands-off and communicated in every way through her words and behavior before, during, and after delivery that my body knew exactly what to do. My main memory is of her quietly knitting in a corner while I labored (but she was 100% competent and on top of things! She just trusted the process). I had a natural, beautiful delivery that was a redemptive and empowering experience! I also HIGHLY. recommend finding a birth doula to work with you. My amazing doula was a true partner through an intense labor and delivery, and I couldn't have done it without her. Good luck to you; I hope that your second delivery is a good one. As many people will likely tell you, your body does remember what to do with a second birth. 


    I am a doula, and a mother of two.  The birth of my first was very traumatic and so I a few things I can recommend from personal experience, but also things that I share with my client are:

    Breathwork and meditation practice - building a safe place in your mind that you can go if/when you start to feel the trauma response during labor.  Using breath is a great way to stay connected to your body and something I recommend practicing daily.  It was hugely helpful to me during labor.

    Fear release - either ritual of writing down your fears and burning the paper, or speaking your fears aloud and letting them move away from you. 

    100% hire a doula.  Having a plan to address trauma as it comes up is one thing, having someone there with you to help you put that plan into action while you are in the throws of labor is super helpful.  I don't know what I would have done without my doula in the weeks leading up to labor, and in my labor.  I would be happy to speak with you, and I can refer you to some other doulas if I am not the right fit for you.

    EMDR therapy has been said to be extremely helpful.

    Post Partum Support International is also a really great resource:

    Wishing you all the best! 

    I had a traumatic first birth and did need to address it during my second. I also had post-partum anxiety after my first and so knew that I needed to find a counselor to build a relationship with ahead of the birth. Unfortunately, I was on the East Coast and so my specific person would not be very helpful. She did specialize in birth related things and there's counselors out there that do. I think anyone who focuses on trauma would help. I also found a cognitive-behavioral approach the most helpful for me, but know not everyone does.

    Other things that helped me: instead of a hospital birth I had a birth center birth. That particular change might not be possible for you, but any change of venue might help if you had previously planned on giving birth at the same place. I did hire a doula but that was mostly because we thought we were having an early birth and would end up in the hospital. I also had a friend who had had a traumatic birth experience and talked to her about it. Finding peer support from friends our a support group might be helpful.

    I had a very similar experience with my first birth. Even going into the building where my first was born (and where I ended up having my 2nd) would make my heart race, so I knew needed some help when I got pregnant with my 2nd. I worked with Rachel Yellin both with her audio recorded pre/during/post-birth guided meditations, and I did a 5 session depth practice with her ( and it was immensely helpful. 

    I also did Kari Marble's prenatal yoga and honestly, that helped a lot as well. She has zoom offerings ( 

    Hope that helps even a little bit. 

    I have not personally worked with this person but she seems really incredible. I love the work she is doing with postpartum groups. This person seems really amazing and perhaps a great resource - Robyn Alagona Cutler, LMFT in Rockridge

    There must be doulas that focus on this but I don't know any off the top of my head. Good luck I hope you find really good support!

    I wish I had advice for you…just empathy. I also had a very traumatic birth with my daughter and am now going through IVF to hopefully get pregnant soon. I know I will be full of anxiety so I would love to know if you get any helpful tips/advice! 

    I would highly recommend my therapist, Molly Nourmand. She specializes in postpartum transitions, including birth trauma, and I’ve found her to be an invaluable support during the prenatal and postpartum periods.

    Dear Mama, Having been in your shoes, I can 100% recommend that you check out a type of therapy called EMDR. It helps people to address and process both trauma and Trauma. I've been working with Dr. Christina Narensky for nearly 2 years now (on issues beyond the partial placental abruption I experienced with my first birth) and would recommend her to anyone. She sees patients in person, in Alameda, or does tele-health as well. Reach her at dr [dot] christinanarensky [at] gmail [dot] com. Wishing you success and also a smooth 2nd birth!

    Highly recommend Mindfulness In Labor — you can read the book (Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke) or do a training or both.

    Also highly recommend a therapist who specializes in perinatal stuff. Michaela Wapman is amazing. Michelle Cilia is also really good. You can also search the therapist directory at and filter for pregnancy/prenatal/postpartum.  

    The app “The Tapping Solution” is also fantastic. It’s guided meditation with light tapping (based in acupressure). They have guided meditations geared towards anxiety and towards preparing for motherhood.

    Good luck — and good on you for trying to get ahead of it early. That will help so so much.

    I don't have any resources but I am in the same boat so just sharing that I am looking for similar resources (not pregnant with second yet but planning on it soon). 

    Someone recommended thebirthtrauma_mama on instagram to me but I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the stories there. And then, my doula from my first recommended this woman but I haven't reached out yet and not sure if it's for me!

    Good luck - will follow this post to see what what others say!


    Sorry to hear you had such a challenging labor & delivery. I can relate!

    Two answers to your question:

    • I was incredibly impressed with Gena McCarthy (genamccarthy3 [at] who specializes specifically in birth trauma. I worked with her for 1-2 months, and she was really helpful in enabling me to work through some of my birth trauma. I imagine it'll be over zoom, but that was effective for me.
    • I also really liked the book Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardake when it come to prepping for birth. It's mostly about how you can use meditation and a mindfulness practice in labor. They also do a birth class you can consider, which I didn't do but have heard good things about.

    Best of luck!

    I want to second recommendations for EMDR. It really helped me. I went from being unable to talk about the birth without breaking down in tears, "OK, that happened. I'm fine now" in the matter of 2 sessions of EMDR (and some prep sessions to tease out how exactly to approach). It is effective and efficient: you won't be paying for years of therapy without necessarily feeling better. 

    Congratulations on second pregnancy. I was in similar state (lots of anxiety) and used Rachel Yellin and a birth doula. I can’t recommend Meleah enough as a birth doula. She made my experience soo much better leading up to and on the day and has been a wonderful resource postpartum as well. I just kept repeating during my labor “this is so much better than the last time”. Im so glad I spent the money. I didnt have a birth doula for my first birth. You can reach her at meleah [at]

    I had a medically (and emotionally) traumatic first pregnancy and cannot recommend enough seeing a therapist to help shift your mindset from "constant panic!! Everything is going wrong!!" to "I am in distress, but not danger". I have been seeing Dr. Donna Rothert ( since my first pregnancy 3.5 years ago and she has been SO helpful in addressing all fears related to traumatic pregnancies. She helped me after the birth of my first child and through the birth of my second child this past summer. I hope you have a smoother go with L&D this time around! 

    I know what a complicated experience a second pregnancy after a traumatic birth can be, so I wanted to start by acknowledging your bravery for doing it all again. My first birth was an emergency c-section at 30 weeks without the opportunity to labor and after a week hospitalization. I'm not sure if you wrote a birth plan for your first or if you're planning to for your second. I used an introduction/background section of the birth plan as place to tactfully name what I felt occurred in my first birth, including ways in which the care I received contributed to trauma (felt inhumane, not consensual, poor communication). It does seem that nurses, residents and midwives are directed to read a birth plan upon entering the patient's room (at least at Kaiser Oakland), and I watched people read my first person experience as they entered my room at shift changes or to check on my status. Requests in the rest of the plan were connected to the prior experience. Most acknowledged the previous experience outright, and that was affirming for me. If of interest, I'm happy to email you my birth plan.

    I also recommend EMDR. It completely changed my life, my relationship to my birth and my relationship with my child. I worked with Gena McCarthy and have extremely high praise for her. It's a bit pricey but worth every penny. Also, fair warning, it is intense. I had to go back and relive my birth so that I could heal through it. Again, it was totally lifechanging.

    I wish you all the best in your journey and hope you find some peace.

    I can relate very much to your post, and I highly recommend EMDR.  I received EMDR therapy in last trimester (right) before birth of my 2nd child, and it was an amazing gift to myself and my family.  I feel that the EMDR treatment and beautiful birth of my second, was an experience I never could have imagined after birth of my first.  Best wishes to you and your family! 

    My first birth was somewhat traumatic in that it took 4 days, many interventions, very inadequate information and choices given by the L&D team. I did not have a doula during my first birth, had planned on one during my second birth but had my baby at the start of the pandemic and only 1 person (my partner) was allowed in the delivery room. My second birth also took several days and needed similar interventions but the whole experience was very different from the first time around and healing of some sorts. What made the biggest difference to me was going into my second labour informed, with clear preferences, and as an advocate for myself. I now knew what labor was like to some extent, I took a birth preparation course with a midwife, and I learned some hypno birthing techniques (highly recommend). I did not have midwife-led care at my delivery but asked to speak to the midwife on staff a few times to get her input when decisions had to be made. I also consulted with the L&D nurses, to get a wider spectrum of opinions than just the - in my case - very medial driven resident/OBGYN view. I asked for more information, asked for the risks that any intervention might bring and especially what would be the next step if an intervention fails. I gave myself time to make decisions instead of letting Drs rush me into decisions. E.g. the resident wanted to break my water to move things along, I declined and asked for more time, eventually my water broke on its own and it was a much more pleasant process. From her point of view, the goal was just 'get the baby out and get it done' as I was already in L&D and laboring. For me it was not just about getting the baby out, but having a good and less painful experience, I did not want to have to labor with broken water for a long time. So, take all the support you can get and go into it as an advocate for yourself and your needs and know that the second time does not have to be the same, but can be a much different and better experience. 

    I am sorry to hear of your traumatic birthing experience. I myself had a traumatic 2nd birth experience, of course during covid in 2020 when I could only have one support person and could not have my laboring plans basically. Going into my third pregnancy I had a lot of anxiety, and I made a conscious effort by the third trimester to really shift my mindset and prepare myself and my husband for a successful and satisfying labor. I highly recommend journaling, talking it out, and doing some mindfulness/ affirmations as your daily exercise in helping shift your mindset. This third time around I hired a doula and had a very satisfying labor last week! I absolutely think all of my planning, keeping a positive mindset and visualizing how I wanted my labor to be really helped prepare me. 

    I highly recommend my doula Brijett, even if you don’t use her as your doula, she can help with creating a birth plan, mindfulness and pregnancy affirmations etc. She has such a calm presence and was such a gem to have during labor! I wish you the best. 

    here is her website:

  • Alta Bates or UCSF for Childbirth

    (3 replies)

    Has anyone had a traumatic 4th degree tear experience but went on to have a successfully natural birth the next time around with minimal to no tear? 

    I’m also considering between Alta Bates (4 mins away) and UCSF (where I delivered at previously and I think, did an amazing repair for me) but across the bridge. 

    Any opinions and OB recommendations greatly appreciated!

    I have. In addition to the tear, my tailbone was broken by my daughter's forehead, and she had the imprint of it on her face for a week after the birth. I had a whole series of other complications, resulting in emergency surgery in the OR for me, minutes after she was born. I spent a few days in the hospital, and it took 11 weeks for my tailbone to heal. All around it was a traumatic experience, and being my first, I wanted it to be as "natural" as possible, and I did not receive an epidural and only had a few pain pills. I actually think I blacked out during part of the labor/birth from pain, because there are chunks of time I don't remember, but my husband has told me about.

    With my second, I asked to be heavily drugged because I was worried about the same thing happening again. I had the easiest time with my second, I pushed, and I barely felt him come out, and there wasn't a need for stitches or any repairs. I was walking around later that day and was released within 24 hours.

    Both kids were born at Kaiser Oakland, 22 months apart, with the same doctor.

    I had a bad tear (3a or 3b degree) when I had my son at Alta Bates, and they did a terrific job repairing it. I still had some pelvic floor weakness and went to see a pelvic floor physical therapist, but that would probably benefit women who don't tear much anyway. So if your sole reason for considering UCSF when Alta Bates is 4 minutes away because you are afraid you will tear again, I think you will find that the OBs at Alta Bates are competent and know what they are doing. I do not have any OB recommendations, as I followed with Golden Oak Midwives.

    I had a tear with my first but second or third degree. My next birth was a home water birth with a midwife. 9 lbs baby, no tears at all. I think the warm water helped to gently stretch. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Fear about giving birth to third

Aug 2011

I am pregnant with my third child, due in February. My two kids were both born at home. My daughter was born first, after 17 hours of grueling back labor. My son's birth was 3 hours, start to finish. (I say his was the redemptive birth experience!) By the time this baby is born, my youngest will be 5 yrs old. I am finding myself wondering if I should have another homebirth. I have often heard that the third birth is the ''wild card'' meaning that labor can go either long or short. I am fearful of having another birth experience like that of my first. It was awful and I really feel in my gut that I cannot go through that again without pain-relief; I am finding myself fantasizing about going to the hospital and getting an epidural this time!! I don't really know what I'll end up doing (although to be honest, I am leaning toward homebirth). I would like to hear about your experiences giving birth to your third, no matter if the story is positive or negative. I am 15 weeks along, and I need to make a decision soon! Thank you. Fearful of giving birth

I think that if you have any worries/trepidation about this birth, you should just go ahead and allow yourself to be in a birthing center (like alta bates) where you have control over the environment but know that help (for you, and/or for the baby) is close at hand.

My mother had 8 children, and since they tended to weigh a little bit more each time and had big heads, each labor was worse. This was in the day that you labored mostly alone and with no help but some ether gas to breathe in sometimes. She used to stay in the hospital for a week just to rest up, since she was coming home to numerous toddlers! These days there are many comforts available to laboring mothers, in birthing centers, and since you do have small children at home, I would advise giving yourself all the help you need - which might turn out to be none at all. Claire

''It was awful and I really feel in my gut that I cannot go through that again without pain-relief; I am finding myself fantasizing about going to the hospital and getting an epidural this time!!'' Please reread what you have written here. Why on earth are you leaning toward a homebirth again if this is how you feel? I delivered 2 kids, both in hospitals, once without pain medications and the second time with an epidural. The second time I was able to enjoy the laboring experience because I wasn't in agonizing pain. I actually found it easier to control how I pushed and breathe properly because I could concentrate. Perhaps delivering in a hospital might be a pleasant surprise for you. A fan of modern medicine

Your first two births sound typical, so your third probably will be, too. Third labors typically tend to be a bit longer than those intense second ones, but much, much gentler. The whole labor feels more like ''early labor'' until you finally get a few intense contractions, and then - boom - the baby falls out. Your uterus just does not have to work so hard to open a much softer cervix. Don't be surprised if you need a little help (including by baby nursing) to stop the bleeding after the birth -- your uterus just is not so into clamping down that hard. In the hospital, these days nearly all women receive pitocin immediately after birth, especially after the second birth. Be relieved. Third births are lovely. Enjoy it. A midwife of many decades and thousands of births

Yeah, I had heard the ''wild card'' thing before too, but honestly don't know anyone who actually experienced the longer labor the third time. Which is good news! I myself had three homebirths: 17 hours, 4 hours, and the last one was 4.5 hours. The second was definitely the easiest because my water didn't break until I was pushing, but my third was the most memorable. I knew my body was capable, I knew what to do to make labor easier, my two older boys (age 6 and almost 4 at the time) were there waiting to welcome their sister into the world, my sister assisted my midwife in catching my daughter, and I felt like I had stayed true to what I needed, and what my family needed. Only you know what is right for you, and there is no way to predict what labor will be like. You can only set up the intentions you want for your birth(through trusted providers and the setting you will be most comfortable) and then roll with it. But, as a gentle reminder, what you set up can make the difference in the kind of birth you have. Again, only you know what that is. Email me if you want to talk more. Warmly, Sam

Of course, every baby and every birth is different, but hopefully it will encourage you to hear that I just gave birth to our third after a 5-year gap, and my labor and delivery were a lot like my second - about the same relatively short time span and intensity, manageable without drugs. Whatever you decide, I think you'd benefit from dealing with some of the fear before the birth - fear has such a powerful impact on our brains and bodies and can even prolong birth. Find a method you feel comfortable with - a fear-release session with a hypnotherapist (my personal recommendation) or therapist, repeating affirmations to yourself, talking it out with a friend, whatever works, but try to figure out exactly what your fears are and work through them, and it will likely improve your labor no matter where you give birth. Good luck and healthy baby! Been There

Hi, I just gave birth to my third son and all were at Alta Bates. I thought labor was supposed to get easier with each child, but my third was the most epic of them all. I am one of those ''lucky'' women who have long long drawn out labors so keep that in mind. My two cents is that you should do it wherever you'll feel safest and calmest. If you're fearful now, the chance that the fear will be more intense when the time comes is possible. Given my long labors, all over 24 hours, I've become a fan of the pain med options at the hospital. Give yourself permission to do whatever feels right. If there's ever a time to practice self care and love it's now. If you sit with it, you'll know what to do, trust your intuition. Congrats, it'll be amazing! Just make your decision so you can enjoy your pregnancy. Sevgi

Hi- I have given birth to 3 kids as well. The first 2 were drug free, vaginal births and the 3rd was not (Pitocin, Fentanyl, epidural). All 3 were at Kaiser Walnut Creek, delivered by amazing midwives and our doula. Though I had made the decision that #3 I was going the drug route out of sheer curiosity, he really was not coming out without some help! I agree that the third is a wild card, as I assumed that a body that had delivered two kids previously would just pop out a third in a hour...NOT the case at all!! I can't speak about home birth or not, as that route never felt like the best option for me, but I will say that with two older kids around as well, being in the privacy of the hospital felt very positive. I didn't have to think about my two older kids during birth...I could just focus on the birth and the baby. As far a drug or not drug, I will say that NOT being consumed by pain during the birth was nice. I was so much more relaxed...the baby just came out easily, without searing pain driving the intense pushing that lasted a while. The Fentanyl was short acting and took the edge off so I could catch my breath. The epidural was a bit weird, but overall I felt really positive about going down that path and felt like recovery was a bit easier. you can ask the moderator for my contact info, if you want to connect more. Mama Bear of 3

My third was my only home birth. It was great! My older kids were 6.75 and 4.75 years old. I had a short labor--intense, but very short and it was so nice to be home. Such a huge difference from my two hospital births where they bug you all the time with taking your temperature and so on. It is just so much more peaceful. So take into consideration the time after the birth as well as the birth itself. And you might be able to arrange with a hospital to be ready for you in case you decide to transfer. there's no place like home

Dear Fearful, I had two home births, and had my third in the hospital. It turned out to be a very good experience. My first birth was 14.5 hours and 2 hours of pushing. My second birth was 2 hours. 14 years later, I had similar fears to yours about being in the hospital, and even considered an epidural! As you said, it's a wild card.

After my water broke, I had 12 hours of no contractions. I managed to avoid pitocin, but agreed to a drug called cytotec. I gave birth one hour later, with two pushes and no tearing. One thing I would definitely recommend is to have a doula or a midwife with you if you decide on the hospital. We had a friend who is a retired nurse practitioner and midwife and I think our experience would have been totally different if she wasn't there. Also, there is a book called ''Home Birth in the Hospital'' that was very helpful to me. I would love to talk to you more about it and to support you in making a decision. Sabina ------------------------------------------- We have three kids. The first was 20 hours long with 5 1/2 hours of pushing. The second was 1 hour long, start to finish. That shocked me and it was like a train coming through me. But in hindsight, I preferred that over the 20 hours. My third, I was scared of another fast labor but knew it would be great afterwards. His birth was 45 minutes long, start to finish. It was painful but I knew it would end at some point and it was so quick. All were home births. I would never think of going seriously to a hospital, to not be able to give birth on the floor, whatever position that I want, to not be strapped to things, to not be able to eat all of the great foods ready for me after birth, and lying in my own bed with all of my kids and family. My oldest cut the two youngest siblinbgs' cords, which was priceless. Their ages are now 7, 5 and 2. You can do it! Three time homebirther, wishing for a 4th ------------------------------------------- Hi there. i wanted to add a new perspective. I am a mom of 3, first one born in hospital (terrible!! experience), sencond two at home. My 1st homebirth (second child) was the most peaceful, meditative amazing experience. around 17 hours start to finish. Just beautiful, i go back to that moment to find my center regularly. My third however, try 3 days. Oh yeah. She was 44 1/2 weeks, my midwife was way out side of her comfort zone and basically said ''you do every single thing i say or im outta here''. She had me walking, castor oil milkshakes, all the cohoshes, sex, more walking, more herbs, more sex. Miserable! I contracted for days. Then one time we went back out-again- for another walk. Whoa this one was different. Holy cow! We called all the support people, it was on! It was still another 15 hours or so from that point, after not sleeping for days.

You know waht? I wouldnt take it back to save my life. She was 10 pounds, it was the hardest thing id ever done. But so is having 3 kids! And especially her!! she's very, very difficult to raise. it was like her birth was just boot camp for the real thing.

I found my true strength that day. I had no idea how powerful I was, as I roared that child into the world. So, i wanted to add a new perspective. If it is hard, it may not mean it needs to be avoided. But, by all means! If you don't want to, dont! Theres not a darned thing wrong with making the choice thats best for you. Its called informed decision, and you sound quite informed. You have to do whats right for you, and your baby, and no one else. glad i stayed home, woulda had a C

Fear of giving birth to a second baby

Sept 2006

We have a 1.5 year old and we are ready for another one. The problem is that my first labor and delivery were extremeley difficult and long (LONG story) and my recovery was very very long, painful, and frustrating. According to the doctors, physical therapists, doula, and other moms it seems that I had it significantly worse than most (Im saying this so you know I am not just a drama queen. I do realize that childbirth is painful for everyone). I am still not fully healed (still have some muscle damage and sex is still painful). My medical care was good and I trust my OB. So, the problem is that I cannot bear the thought of doing it again. How do I deal with this? Any other moms gone through this? Are there any (reasonably-priced) therapists who specialize in this? Is therapy even the way to go here? I really really want to bear another child for many reasons (we are planning on adopting for our third), but honestly, the thought of delivering a child makes me want to cry. -wishing the kid would be delivered by FedEx instead of me

The best way to deal with fear is to confront it and try to move on. Therapy can be a great release to help this process along. Fear of birth is a very normal thing - whether with your first or your 10th. Several clients of mine have had great success with hypnotherapy for this type of fear/concern. There are many techniques in hypnotherapy to help release the fear and move forward.

Beyond traditional therapy traumatic birth experiences can often be resolved with the help of a support network. Even though it was over 1 year ago a mom's group or new mom/baby group may be a great resource for you to explore. Check your area for groups with women who have had similar experience, or even those who have not but want to share their positive birth experiences.

A first traumatic birth does not equal or sentence you to a second similar experience. You can have a wonderful, healthful birth this next time around. Good luck to you and your family in this ongoing journey. Mom of 2 and birth professional

Would you consider having a C-section? After a nasty first delivery, I had a wonderful C-section experience ( required because the baby was breech) and healed beautifully, even tho' it is surgery. Perhaps something to consider? Good Luck with #2

Not knowing the details of your story, I can't really advise...but I can tell you my experience.

First labor: 56 hours, no epidural, pitocin and cytotec (ouch), 4th degree tearing. Long recovery, had pain for a long time!

Second labor: 3 hours, no tearing. Virtually no recovery time.

Obviously not everyone is so lucky, but it does seem that the second one tends to be faster. And all births are different, so its hard to predict one from another. I understand your fear, though Lucky the second time

I just read over some responses to the last post about fear over second labor. I want to put in a plug for not scheduling a C section as a way to deal with a difficult first labor. First labors are MUCH more difficult than subsequent births.

I just gave birth to my second child 4 months ago. The first labor was long, baby was mal-positioned, she finally came out with a vacuum assist in the OR.

And I had some complications post-partum. It was traumatic, I was pretty disappointed that I didn't do it naturally, and I feared the same would happen with my second. But my second labor lasted all of 90 minutes. I put down my toddler for a nap, labored and gave birth before she woke up! (I was in the hospital) That's not to say it was easy. In fact, the precipitousness of it all caused problems for the baby, who was 2 lbs larger than number one, by the way, but all was and is fine. What I want to say is that my second birthing experience helped me heal psychologically from the dissappointments of my first experience. I can't believe how many people suggested that a scheduled C section is the answer to this dilemma. You absolutely can have a smooth second labor. At the very least it will be shorter. And shorter is always better.

Go into it with the courage you did with your first labor and the knowledge that you came through it with a healthy baby and you will be empowered by having a second baby Fear not!

I am going through the exact same issue, except my baby is only 5 months old and we would like to conceive again in about a year. I have just chosen to see a therapist and only gone to one session so far, so I can't say how effective it is yet. I have a list of therapists in the Berkeley area that do specialize in these topics. If you are interested, feel free to email me to get the names of the therapists I know. I feel for you because I've had a very similar experience and the thought of going through it again really scares me. I'm even having dreams about my fears. I wish you the best in your healing process. Mollie

definitely get yourself a doula. I had Judy Balinger for both my children's births. And read Birthing from Within. its the only book I know of that helps you deal with the anxiety and fear of giving birth. Learning about the birth process is what most books do and that is fine but it doesn't really help you feel more comfortable about the process. Do as many of the exercises in the book as you can. I was lucky in that my husband also did them with me at my request - so I wouldn't feel dumb, I said - but it also helped me not feel alone in the process. It's natural to feel anxious, especially if you've had a bad experience. Unfortunately, I believe the medical community preys on the fears of pregnant women to justify its place in normal healthy birth process and often causes as many or more problems than it solves for us. I'm lucky, as a nurse I know when I can tell them to go to hell and I know what questions to ask and how to put all the information into context.

The trick is not to rise to the bait, to use your anxiety to help you focus but not to let it take over. a good doula will help you ask the right questions and make the right decisions for you. She will also help you work through your fears and envision a different result for yourself and your family. doula fan

I know exactly how you feel. I had a long, arduous labor with my firstborn, and ultimately had to have a c-section or the baby never would have been born (and I probably wouldn't have lived).

And because the labor was so long, the recovery was much longer than normal. I was terribly frightened of the second labor, and there was more at stake this time: I had a two-year old daughter at home. Rather than going through the whole thing again, I scheduled a c-section. I did not consult a therapist about this, but I did discuss it with my obstetrician. I have never regretted my decision. My second daughter was delivered safely, without the terror of the first labor, plus the physical recovery was easier. This was such a relief I can hardly describe it.

There is no reason to suffer more than you already have. It is your body, your family, and your choice. Good luck - I do sympathize brie brie

I was very afraid of my second labor and delivery - and couldn't sleep through my 2nd pregnancy due to the anxiety. I was afraid of a repeat of my first L - which was long and painful. Nancy Friedrich, a hypnotherapist, helped me work through my anxiety. Prior to becoming a hypnotherapist, she practiced as a midwife for 20 years. She has the experience and knowledge to help work through issues of L She is also very kind, reassuring, and caring! She can be reached at NGbeginnew[at]

Intense fear of birthing second baby

Feb 2006

I am the mom to a wonderful nine month old daughter. On that front, things couldnt be better. But we have always wanted a siibling for her, hopefully about two years younger. After a VERY difficult labor with a lot of challenges, I cannot bear the thought of doing it again. I was at Alta Bates and felt that the care was good. The labor was over 50 hours long, and because of a uterine abnormality that i have, she was positioned really badly and didnt want to come out for anything. She was also posterior, had a huge head, and I tore really badly when she was born. My recovery was very difficult - I had to use a wheelchair for a month, and sustained some pretty good damage to my back and legs which is supposed to be healable but isnt all the way better yet. I had an epidural, relunctantly, and that made a huge differemce in the last couple hours but it was still very very difficult. According to my OBGYN, my labor and delivery was unusually hard, my recovery unusually lengthy and my injuries more sever than most - just so you know Im not making it out to be more dramatic than it needs to be. My husband and I still havent had sex because though Im not in pain, i still dont feel quite right and a bit sensetive. I just cant bear the thought of doing it again. I know that there are many factors that could be different the second time around - the length of the labor, the size of her head, the fact that she was posterior. I also know that because of my uterine abnormality, its possible that things are just as difficult. By the way, I know that I coudl always have a c-section but I am aware at how over- prescribed c-sections are and i dont want to have a c-sectiojn unnecessarily, just to make myself more comfy. Birthing is hard, and im comfortable with that. The advice Im looking for is this - 1. Are there others who experienced anxiety about giving birth a second time because of a difficult first time and how did you deal with it? 2. Should I try to seek some therapy or something or am I making too much out of this and 8 months postpartum, this anxiety is normal? Should i give it more time to subside? Thanks in advance. anon

If you definitely still want a 2nd child, why don't you just get a C-section? Yes, C- sections are over-prescribed and some people like Britney Spears request them for no good reason, but it sounds like you have good reason! You should not have to have another vaginal delivery that is going to put you in a wheelchair for weeks! Have you talked to your doctor about whether it would be reasonable for you to have a planned C-section? My guess is that it is. good luck!

I was in your shoes 10 years ago. I had a very hard time birthing my first child. I finally found out that I had post- traumatic stress syndrome and got myself to a therapist who works with post-partum depression and post-traumatic stress. Please don't give yourself a hard time about your feelings. Your baby is only 9 months old. What you need is time and an opportunity to talk about what happened to you, and talk about it a lot. After working on my experience in therapy, I finally had an ''A-hah'' moment when I realized that I was willing to go through what I went through and MORE if it meant having another baby. Then I knew I was better. We now have 2 beautiful girls. But it happens differently for different people. So give yourself time, enjoy your first baby with lots of cuddle time, and get someone to talk to like a therapist or a mom's group. Best wishes. Jeanne

Sorry to hear of your ordeal with the birth of your first child. I thought my first birth was rough! wow. You should definitely give yourself the time to heal both mentally and physically before you decide whether you really want to do it again. If you do want to have more children here's what I did to overcome my fear of the birth of my second child. After I got pregnant I spent a while talking with my midwife about what went wrong with my first birth and what my fears were. She strongly recommended I go to a woman named Carolyn Schaffer. She is a therapist in Berkeley who specializes hypnosis and has a particular speciality in hypnobirthing. I was a little wary -- and be forewarned it is a very weird experience -- but I went for 3 or 4 sessions and WOW it was amazing! The first session my husband came. The others were just for me. We spent a lot of time talking about what I wanted, and what I didn't want in my birth. And then through mild hypnosis she helped me delve and face my fears from my first birth. After that she helped me craft a plan for childbirth. I spent about a half an hour each day listening to my tapes and focusing on deep relaxation. All was geared toward creating a positive outlook on the experience.

The results were phenomenal! The birth of my second child (drug free) was almost pain free and the tools she gave me really contributed to my ability to work through the pain. My second was 3 lbs. bigger than my first so it wasn't exactly an easy baby to get out.

But more than anything the birth was actually enjoyable. At one point I turned to my husband and told him I was actually loving the process. I NEVER would have imagined that. Additionally, the process allowed me to connect with my second child while he was in utero that felt very special. I highly recommend Carolyn. Even if I decided not to have a second child (or chose cesarean over vaginal birth) her process helped me put to rest my fears, the lingering sense of trauma, guilt and sense of failure of my first birth. I highly recommend Carolyn. Her number is 652-1498. anon

I think you should schedule a C-section for your second baby--your uterine abnormality is sufficient justification, and it sounds like it would be less stressful for you. Mother of two (both C-sections)

I was an RN at Alta Bates, although not at that time....I have been a L RN for years and a doula for over 20 years. I even wrote a book about birth trauma! (unpublished) My advice to you would be, that if your birth trauma was that real, that significant that it would cause you this much pain and this much hesitation about whether or not to actually have another child, I'd say that you need to sort our your priorities. Number one: how important to your view of you as a woman, human, etc. is having a vaginal birth? Because the only argument I heard you make about cesareans was that they are over used. Personally, if I needed a hysterectomy, or painkillers, for a real reason, I wouldn't turn them down just because they might, in other cases, be overused. A cesarian is medicine for a condition just like any other medicine. I'd say, months of pain, a hellish birth, and hesitancy to make love and have another child are some of the best reasons to have a cesarian. I had three kids at home and STILL say that! You could hire a doula, or some sort of consultant to assist you with this decision, and/or accompany you to the delievery to help with decision making. You could set some limits in terms of how long and how much pain you are willing to go without trying something else. A vaginal delivery is not the point. There are many things to consider, and as a mother of two young children, you aren't going to have the energy to deal with them AND pain and a long recovery. Best of luck. Elizabeth

I think you are being much too hard on yourself. As you clearly stated, you had an extraordinarily difficult delivery, from which you are still recovering. In my humble opinion, you should PLAN to have a c-section, and you should find a doctor who supports you in this choice and will help make your second experience of childbirth as painless as possible. Your situation is not at all like the run-of-the-mill delivery, and it is not helping you to apply the ''common wisdom'' to your specific circumstances. Wishing you all the best, anon

Just because C-sections may be ''overprescribed'' does not mean they are not sometimes necessary. Neither of my children would be alive today if it hadn't been for timely C-sections. And frankly, it is amazing to me that you didn't have one the first time around. It might have spared you a lot of agony and kept you out of that wheelchair. C-section recoveries aren't much fun, but they are a whole lot easier than what you described. Frankly, I don't see much point in giving birth if you aren't willing to take advantage of medical technology to give not only the baby but YOURSELF the best possible start on life together. What is the point of being in a wheelchair for a month and having all the injuries you described? How is that making your life better? How is it making you a better person, wife, mother? Unless you are willing to come to terms with some of this, you are probably better off not having a second child. Sara

Have a c-section. I did, and the recovery wasn't that bad. Within a week, I was pretty darn mobile and going up and down stairs, etc. A friend had a natural delivery and opted for a scheduled c-section for the 2d b/c she couldn't bear the thought of going through child birth again. She was happy with the decision. It sounds like you've been through enough! Lynne

Oh, my. You poor thing! C-sections may very well be over- prescribed, but it certainly sounds like it would be justified in your case. Not that they're easy to recover from, either, but probably easier than what you've already been through. anon

Your intense fear of a second birth is very understandable given the significant trauma you sustained with your first, and it is definitely possible to feel better and have greater confidence going into a second birth. Because trauma gets held in the body and the nervous system, therapy approaches which address these aspects tend to be particularly effective and direct. Two approaches you might find particularly useful are EMDR and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. I would be happy to help you with referrals for therapists trained in either or both of these approaches, or to meet with you myself (I am an MFT Intern with advanced training in trauma (both EMDR and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy). I also used to be a birth doula and specialize in birth-related issues. Rachel Zamore, MA 510- 594-4090). In any case, it's great that you are reaching out for support and please know that you can get some relief. rachel

I had a pretty good first birth experience. I don't remember any pain (I had no pain meds) and active labor only lasted about 7 hours. BUT, I ended up with a birth injury that will never fully heal which caused me a lot of grief and pain in the months following the birth (and continues to do so 6 months later). I think women need to process their birth experience- good or bad-especially one as intense as yours. After the birth the focus shifts to the baby but in talking to women, I found that many are haunted by their birth for months and never feel resolved. I would go to therapy if I were you to talk about what was clearly a traumatic experience. I think you are very brave to consider going through another vaginal birth but--as someone who is militantly pro-vaginal births and against the medicalization of labor, I think if it seems like your second labor is going to be that intense, I would have the c-section. I will tell you that the women I know who had c-sections recovered faster than I and are not suffering chronic ill- effects as I am. Good luck. anon

I had *major* anxiety prior to delivering my first (and so far only) baby. What worked for me was reading ''Birthing from Within,'' working with a doula beforehand, and writing about my fears and my strategies for coping should they come to pass. This last strategy is taken from cognitive-behavioral therapy, which I've done forr other fears, and it really works. I bet short-term CBT would help you a lot (see archives for info). Nicole

Wow. Sounds like you have had a really traumatic experience. Here's my advice: if you have the love for a second child, and the capacity to carry the pregnancy, then don't make such a big deal out of the birth itself -- it (can be) just a few short hours in your life -- with a c-section, and then it's over. I had three children, all by c-section. I have a mis-shapen uterus and the first two children were breech. The first was an emergency c-section 7 weeks early -- due to bleeding from placenta previa. That was traumatic, but not the birth -- I was out cold and when I woke up, I had a beautiful, small, healthy baby -- now a beautiful 11 year old. Baby #2 was breech and was a scheduled c-section, that had a few blips but ultimately it was just a weird hour in my life -- and now I have fabulous child # 2 who is 9 years old -- what a joy! Then, baby #3 was not breech, but with two c-sections already, I chose not to take the extra risk to the baby of attempting a vaginal delivery -- and voila -- beautiful baby #3 is out in 1 hour and now she is 7 and another joy to behold!

Yes, c-sections have been over-prescribed, but let's not loose sight of what a miracle they can be! Throughout history, and even across the earth today, childbirth is the single most dangerous thing a woman will do in her life. We have the gift, the privilege, of medical help and intervention. Your situation sounds like it was the perfect occasion for a c-section. Just because it wasn't warranted in another person's delivery doesn't mean it wasn't -- or shouldn't -- be warranted in yours. Talk to your OBGYN about a planned c-section before you get pregnant, and focus on getting your health and relationship together so you can move ahead with the second child you want.

Of course, I don't want to sound like c-sections are ''nothing.'' They do require careful recovery. My point is -- if it's the BIRTH that is freaking you out, don't let that stop you. SKIP IT, and have a c-section, GUILT FREE, instead. 3-Cs and full of gratitude

Have a c-section and get everything you want. Second child, no pain, fear, trauma. Who cares if there are too many c-sections. It's you that counts, not some statistic. My wife was having a terrible labor with our second child- blood, pain, crisis. Western medicine may be overused- but it sure has its place. Fifteen minutes and a c-section later all was well. Who needs additional stress (terror?) during pregnancy. Get a date for delivery and have a guilt free addition to the family. love my family (and the anesthesiologist)

So sorry to hear that your first labor was so difficult. Mine was half as long but was pushing for about 4 hours before he could come out. I had my 2nd baby 3 yrs later and the memories really don't fade. I had many of the same fears that you do. However, my body kind of knew what to do the 2nd time. I was more relaxed and learned from my mistakes. Gave birth within 3 hrs of arriving at the hospital. However, I know a few friends with similarly difficult first labors as yours and they opted for a C-section. Given your enduring injuries, I wouldn't feel guilty about it at all. anon

I highly recommend the book ''Birthing From Within'' for some insight on processing your past birth trauma. I would be very nervous too!!! Adelina

My first birth was a bit difficult (baby got stuck) and we finally had to decide between forceps and C-section. My second and third babies were much easier (and faster). The most important factor for me was my ob/gyn. When things got difficult my doctor, Jim Nishimine, was in control. He said I was getting too tired and the baby had been in the birth canal long enough. I can't tell you how much I trust him. I would suggest having a doctor who will make sure you and the baby are okay. Shelly

My first reaction to your posting was ''what do you think you have to prove?'' Your first labor sounds horrific. Why are you beating yourself up about requesting an epidural or c-section for your next child? Get yourself well-educated about assisted birth options and choose something that your are comfortable with medically (for you and your child) AND will ease your very understandable fears. I tried to tough it out my first child and felt like a failure for finally assenting to a little morphine to help me work with rather than tensing up with my contractions and yes I tore as well. After really thinking about how so many well-meaning folks guilt trip women for using modern medicine responsibly, I studied my options for my 2nd child and asked up front for a non-narcotic drug to be administered early enough in my labor so that my internal organs (not the baby's) would process the drug and to help me stay focused. I also studied further assisted birth choices and felt that I could intelligently make a decision if my least choice wasn't enough to get through my labor. What a difference. Mostly because I felt in control of my choices and my labor rather than doing what I though was expected or politically correct. Because I let myself be free to choose, it was actually easier to bear the pain and choose NOT to do more than the non-narcotic. Labor is VERY personal, deciding that you need help to get through it does not make you less of a woman or mother. anonymous

I Understand your fear. I am pregnant of my second baby, and my first baby is just 15 months. ( I had a pretty long labor, but no pain - I used epidural at the beginning of my labor) But I just would like to let you know that, I think, the negative feelings about having a c-section is pretty much cultural. I am from Brazil and mostly of my friends with kids had c-section. They had a easy recovery, peace in mind and beautiful kids. Even considering that maybe it is too soon for you to decide it,I think you should be more open mind about de c-section. If is that what you need to have another child...why not? It is not that bad at all! especially with it is not an emergency one. Talk more about it with your doctor and good luck! mom expecting #2

Hire a doula! My second birth was so much easier with an extra support person. mom of 2

I have wanted to post a similar question, so I don't have any answers for you since I am currently going through the exact same thing, but wanted you to know you aren't alone. I still cry at random times while replaying my labor and the fear and conflict I feel around deciding whether or not to plan a VBAC or c-sect for my next birth this summer. I pushed for over 5 hours unmedicated with rapid pitocin contractions - it was scary like running on a treadmill with a noose around my neck while exhausted - and just can't bear doing it again and ending up with another c-sect. For a while I thought a VBAC with an epidural would be my answer, but am finding that the epi may cause baby's heartbeat to drop indicating false alarm that scar is rupturing. My babies will be 17 mos apart, so the memory is very fresh. I alternate between being sure I need to talk with a therapist and feeling I am making too much of it. But in listening to you it was clear to me that we aren't making too much of it, we have reason to be anxious - a form of post traumatic stress. I think emotional risk needs to be weighed into the vbac/c-sect's a difficult choice isn't it with risk on both sides and fear of both? I wish you the best and happy safe births to us both! Anon