When you find out that you’re pregnant, you feel an abundance of feelings from nervousness to sheer pleasure. You might have a vision of what you imagine for the first moment that you see your baby, and having a c-section might not be what you hope. If you’re faced with the possibility, having a gentle c-section could be precisely what you want.
The moment that you meet your baby is magical; I know, I’ve done it four times now. While you might envision the doctor placing your baby on your stomach after vaginal birth, that’s not the reality for millions of mothers, including myself.
The United States has a high c-section rate; around 1 in 3 women have a c-section each year. Chances are you know many women who have had a c-section in their lifetime. If you’re faced with the probability of having a c-section, take the time to research the concept of a gentle c-section.
After having four c-sections, I can tell you that having a gentle c-section makes a significant difference. Two of my four have followed this style of delivery, and my experiences couldn’t be more different.
What is a Gentle C-Section?
It’s easy to forget that a c-section is major abdominal surgery. Yes, it’s birth, so there is so much joy surrounding the procedure, but the doctor still has to make an incision through your abdomen and uterus. The recovery for a c-section is more complicated and painful than vaginal births with a variety of possible complications.
The goal of a gentle c-section is to make the process seem less like surgery and more like a vaginal delivery. Now, there is no way to erase the fact that this is surgery, but parents still want to be involved with the process and enjoy the birth of their child.
When parents opt for a gentle c-section, there is a significant attitude change. The entire staff focuses on getting mom and baby together as soon as possible. Moms don’t have to wait for hours to hold their babies or watching from afar. It keeps the baby with more as much as possible.
My Experiences with a Gentle C-Section
I mentioned before that two of my four births followed the gentle c-section style. With my first two births, my babies spent the first hour or more away from me. That was hard emotionally for me to handle. I saw their faces for a few moments in the OR, and then the nurses took my babies to the nursery.
For my third and fourth deliveries, the nurses placed my baby on my chest within minutes of their birth. My husband and I watched as our children entered the world and took their first breaths, which were moments I was robbed of before.
My babies never went to the nursery.
When I transferred from the OR to a recovery room, nurses followed behind with my baby in the rolling bassinet. As soon as I was in my bed, they placed my babies in my arms, and I began to breastfeed immediately.
My husband and I spent the first hour while our babies, like the nurses, completed their charting and observing my recovery. We felt loved. The staff laughed, played music in the OR, and made the experience beautiful for us.
The Differences Between a Traditional and Gentle C-Section
The surgery portion of the surgeries is the same. They still make the same incision, and you’ll still have a spinal epidural to ensure that you are adequately numbed during the procedure yet awake. In general, how your doctor approaches the surgery won’t change too much.
The differences lay in the options given to parents during this birth. Here are some of the key differences to note.
A Clear Curtain
In a typical c-section, you have a blue or green opaque curtain that drapes over your chest in front of your face. It prevents you from seeing the birth of your baby.
Some women prefer this style. You might have a weak stomach, and the sight of a surgery site could be too much for you. That’s okay! No doctor wants a mother to pass out during her birth.
In a gentle c-section, mothers have the option to have a transparent or adjusted curtain that allows you to watch your baby emerging from the womb. It gives you the moment that all moms want to see – the moment that their baby enters the world for the first time.
Another difference is the atmosphere of the operating room. Moms pick music that can be played to help keep her calm and relaxed. It can be anything that you want! Soft, ambient lighting can be used instead of the typical harsh light used in most operating rooms.
A simple change in the atmosphere makes a drastic difference in a mother’s experience. When we filled the operating room with music, and we laughed and joked with the staff, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, rather than anxiety. All mothers need to feel calm when they’re delivering their babies.
Baby Wiggling Out
Some doctors will allow the baby to wiggle himself out of the incision site a bit before being removed the right of the way. Baby is watched the entire time and is perfectly safe. It encourages their natural movements during labor and delivery.
Skin to Skin in the OR
One of the most significant differences I’ve experienced was when I opted for a gentle c-section with my third baby. Right after birth, my baby was placed on my chest, as the doctor finished the surgery.
It was a magical experience that felt reserved for only vaginal birthing mothers, and that always felt unfair to me. The moment that my crying son was placed on my chest, his cries ceased, and I was able to kiss his face. He spent his first moments on my chest, right where he belonged.
Skin to skin in the operating room is becoming more common. Evidence shows that skin to skin after a c-section is beneficial for both mom and baby, and it helps to encourage breastfeeding. Not to mention the emotional benefits of being able to hold your baby in those first moments.
Less Separation Time
For years, the standard policy regulated that mother and baby be separated for the first hour as they “recovered and rested.” In reality, mothers wanted to spend that time with their baby. As mothers began to push for the removal of this outdated policy, more hospitals instituted policies that kept mothers and babies together at all times.
Babies now come into the recovery room with their mother. During this time, moms can practice skin to skin, as well as fathers! More skin to skin time with parents after birth is essential.
Here are some of the benefits!
- Regulates baby’s heart rate and breathing
- Stimulates digestion and interest in feeding
- Helps to regulate body temperature
- Relaxes both mom and baby
- Releases hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering
- Reduces cortisol levels
The Benefits of a Gentle C-Section
If you’re worried that this might not be as safe as a traditional c-section, don’ be. A Dutch study researched over 300 c-sections and researchers found no differences in the rate of infections, maternal outcomes, or NICU visits.
The rate of gentle c-sections is on the rise, and there are some significant benefits for mothers to consider.
- Moms who have gentle c-sections and practice skin to skin afterward tend to have shorter stays in the hospital. Learn more about your schedule of events for a c-section stay in the hospital.
- Mothers are typically more satisfied with their birthing experience and have a lower risk of developing postpartum depression.
- Parents can capture more photographs of their child’s birth.
- Doctors can practice delayed cord clamping if parents so desire.
How to Plan a Gentle C-Section Birth?
If you’re interested in this style of birthing, here are some steps to help plan your ideal c-section.
Find an Open-Minded Doctor
First, you need to find a doctor who is open to such an idea. Ideally, this doctor will be familiar with the concept of a gentle c-section and might have performed a few.
If you end up with a doctor-on-call that isn’t as familiar or as open as your doctor, make sure your partner can advocate for you and will voice any concerns you might have.
Create Your Birth Plan
Now, you can create your birth plan and make sure you have several copies on hand. Keep them in your hospital bag, your purse, and make sure your doctor has a copy in your file. Everyone involved in your birth should have a copy and be aware of what you desire.
Here are some things to include in your birth plan.
- Let the doctor know that you want a spinal block or an epidural for your anesthesia. General anesthesia will not allow you to be conscious for the birth of your baby and should be saved for emergencies.
- Avoid additional medication such as anxiety meds, which means your mental state won’t be altered, and you’ll be fully aware.
- You want to watch the baby lifted out of your womb through a transparent or lowered curtain.
- Your gown can be lowered so that the baby can be placed on your chest while your doctor finishes the surgery.
- Baby can breastfeed while in the operating room. That means you don’t want or need arm restraints.
- You can ask the doctor to delay cord clamping as well as request that they save your placenta.
- Delay cleaning and weighing the baby until you are ready.
- Baby comes with you into the recovery room, where you continue to breastfeed and have skin to skin time.
Read Your Hospital’s Policies Beforehand
Always read up on your hospital’s policies so you’re aware of any obstacles you might face. Sometimes, hospitals have regulations in place that might be different than your doctor’s practices, and a hospital rule will override your doctor’s plans.
Don’t Forget Your Birth Experience
This is your birth, so it needs to be something you remember and smile when you think about it for the rest of your life. Make your wishes known. Don’t be shy to advocate for yourself.
Why Aren’t Gentle C-Sections Available Everywhere?
Unfortunately, gentle c-sections aren’t available everywhere yet. This new style of birthing began roughly three to five years ago as mothers began to vocalize more desire to have options that vaginal birthing mothers had.
Some physicians are happy to go along with a patient’s request, even if gentle c-sections aren’t the standard protocols. Others aren’t as happy to make changes in their routine. If this is something important to you, I encourage you to interview different OBGYNs in your area and look at the various hospitals as well. All hospitals have separate policies.
Right now, the main setback is a lack of clinical studies showing that this is a better route. Doctors and hospital boards need to see hard scientific data to make changes to their policies. Policy changing takes a lot of time, but as more studies come out, we hope to see this option more often.
Gentle C-Sections Are the Future
While they might not be the standard everywhere, change is on the horizon. As researchers learn more about the benefits, doctors expect this to become normal for all mothers. One day, it will be the norm, but for now, if you’re facing the possibility of a c-section, don’t be afraid to ask and make your wishes known.
Hey, this is Linda. My biggest accomplishment in life is being a mother of four children. Their current ages range from almost ten years old down to 20 months old.
I’m passionate about writing parenting articles because I understand so well all of the problems and trials you face as a parent. From breastfeeding woes to budgeting problems and behavior problems, along with everything in between, chances are I’ve faced it over the last ten years. Read more about Linda here.