I demanded a C-section to have my baby – I wanted to take the easy route, plus it left my bits in tip-top shape

AS soon as the theme tune to TV show One Born Every Minute began, Rachel Allen would make a dash for the door.

Unable to watch even a second of the hit TV show without her heart racing, she feared she’d never be able to have a baby.

But after being diagnosed with tokophobia — a fear of pregnancy that can lead to the avoidance of childbirth — Rachel opted for a Caesarean section after she became pregnant with her son Lewis, now seven.

She says: “I was terrified of giving birth. The thought of the blood, gore and pain — I couldn’t deal with it.

“Having a C-section was the best decision I ever made. Without it, I might not be a mother today.”

Rachel, 40, is in good company. Radio DJ Kate Lawler revealed on Instagram she too had decided on a C-section for the birth of her three-month-old daughter Noa.

The 40-year-old 2002 Big Brother winner said: “I had a really positive video call with an obstetrician about options and we discussed my fear of childbirth, along with various facts and figures on both (C-section) and spontaneous births.”

Her comments generated mixed reactions — even though one in four UK births are C-sections.

But statistics for them are not separated between elective and emergency, or those planned for a medical reason.

However, tokophobia affects around 14 per cent of women and since 2000 it has been on the rise, according to research.

Some experts partly blame social media as more women are sharing their painful birth stories.

So it is unclear exactly how many mums choose to have one for non-medical reasons.

They are not the preferred options within the NHS and doctors can refuse to perform them — although they must refer patients to medics who will.

Their view is that a C-section is a “major operation” and in most cases a natural birth is safer for mother and baby alike.

Single mum Rachel, a social media manager from Milton Keynes says: “Growing up, I heard stories of long labours — 40 hours-plus — and torn bits. It made me think giving birth was something I could never do.”

Rachel yearned to be a mum all the same, so in 2011 — four years after marrying the man who is now her ex-husband — she began talking therapy on the NHS, having been referred by her GP.

She says: “I was so frightened. I didn’t think I could physically have a baby.

"But the therapist and I discussed my phobia and, after a time, I could very gently watch the intro to One Born Every Minute.

“After a year I could watch the entire programme and I was able to rationalise it and not catastrophise. It felt like huge progress.”

Six months later, she became pregnant. She says: “I immediately insisted on a C-section. In my mind there was no other option.

“The first midwife said, ‘No, no, you’ll be fine — everyone feels like that’. But I made my viewpoint quite clear and after looking through my notes they agreed.”

Lewis, weighing 6lb 11oz, arrived safe and healthy at Milton Keynes Hospital.

Rachel says: “I loved him immediately but I will never feel guilty.

"I think a planned C-section is a lot less risky than when a birth goes wrong and you need an emergency C-section.”

Rachel has never been judged by her friends for opting for what some people consider an easier option.

She says: “Why should women be martyrs? It’s toxic, holding up the view that birth has to be agony or you’re not doing it right. Pain isn’t a badge of honour.”

Emma Cusden, a marketing and PR firm owner from Midhurst, West Sussex, also had both her children — Freddie, now four, and Sailor, ten months — via C-section.

Emma, 33, who is married to Jonny, 34, a fireman, says: “I was encouraged to have a natural birth throughout my pregnancy with Freddie.

"But after two induction attempts failed, I said, ‘Enough’s enough’. I insisted on a C-section. I was beginning to feel violated. I felt like a cow being probed by a vet. I didn’t want it to continue.

“Some of my mates who gave birth around the same time needed stitches and couldn’t sit down. But I was fine.

‘Weigh risks and benefits’

SUN GP Dr Carol Cooper says:

"Most women in the UK give birth vaginally to healthy babies and recover well. And most who have a planned Caesarean also have healthy babies and recover well.

"Still, a Caesarean is a major op. There’s more pain and it takes longer to get back to normal afterwards.

"Typically it takes six weeks until you can drive again.

"There’s a risk of heavier bleeding and of infection of the wound or the womb. Deep-vein clots are a bit more common, too.

"The risks are higher for overweight mums. It’s also worth remembering a Caesarean costs the NHS more money.

"One of the pluses of a Caesarean birth is that there is much less chance of developing long-term incontinence.

"But having a Caesarean section may make future births more complicated. And serious complications are more common if you have several Caesarean sections.

"Obstetricians consider requests for a Caesarean even when there isn’t a medical need for it.

"But it’s important to weigh up the risks and consider    the benefits carefully."

“And my bits were in tip-top shape, which I was pleased about, although of course I had a scar.”

After becoming pregnant with daughter Sailor two years later, Emma immediately insisted on another C-section.

Arriving at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, in July 2020, Emma says she could hear women screaming as they gave birth naturally.

She adds: “I was just so relieved I was going to have a lovely, civilised C-section. And it was civilised.

“I also did a thing called a gentle or natural Caesarean, with skin-to-skin contact as soon as Sailor was born. It was such a positive experience.

“Some people have said I’m ‘too posh to push’ but I don’t care. I shut them down pretty quickly.

“I’d never have a natural birth. Hearing women scream at their husbands was enough to put me off that for life.”

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