Skin to Skin in the OR after a C-Section: My Experiences

For years, hospitals and doctors neglected to give mothers the option to have skin-to-skin after their c-sections, leaving moms feeling robbed of their dream birthing experience. Nowadays, skin-to-skin in the OR after a c-section has become more common, and I experienced this glorious moment twice now.

With four c-sections under my belt, I feel like a veteran, but not all of my births have been the same experience. My first c-section was the standard experience when I was removed from my daughter for over an hour and barely had a look at her before they zipped her away.

During my second birth, I watched the nurses weigh and swaddle my son, but I didn’t have the opportunity to try skin to skin. Then, much to my surprise, my third c-section brought a moment I never dreamed of experiencing.

Skin to Skin in the OR Times Two

With my third child, I prepared for a repeat c-section. I opted out of the option to try for a VBA2C and decided that I wanted to aim for the best birth I could have. Articles that I read stated more hospitals started to offer skin to skin in the OR, and I knew I wanted that for my birth.

I had my speech prepared – I’m that type of person.

We arrived at the hospital two hours before my scheduled surgery time and began the process of paperwork. My nurse asked me if I had any requests, and I knew that was my opportunity. 

I told her that I wanted to try skin to skin in the OR. Much to my surprise, she said, “Oh honey, that’s our standard policy now. That’s not a problem at all.” 

Tears came to my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. Finally, I might have the birth that I truly desired.

My son’s birth was fast, and he came out screaming. Within minutes, the anesthesiologist removed the restraints on my wrists, and the nurse laid my son on my chest. He was crying and wiggling on my chest as I nuzzled his head. I held onto him and smelled that glorious newborn baby scent. 

Two years later, I laid in the same operating room for the birth of my fourth child, my second daughter. She came out screaming and covered in meconium. Thankfully, she looked great, and they quickly cleaned her off and laid her on my chest.

In her case, my little girl had trouble regulating her body temperature for the first few hours after birth. She never left my chest. We laid in the OR with her on my chest, and then I moved to the recovery room, where I continued to breastfeed her and laid together under warm blankets.

The Benefits

Skin-to-skin care after vaginal birth is the standard care in most hospitals. Babies are placed naked on their mother’s chest and allowed to spend as much time as desired there.

C-section mothers are unable to have the same experience unless the doctors and hospital staff are willing to make an effort to help her during the surgery and to reduce routine separation from their babies.

For years, hospitals believed that practicing it in the OR would increase the risk of hypothermia for the newborn. However, the evidence does show that c-section delivered newborns who experienced this contact within one hour of delivery aren’t at risk for hypothermia. 

Doctors and researchers prove that immediate or early skin to skin after a c-section birth can have several benefits, such as:

  • An increased rate of successful breastfeeding
  • Quicker time to the first breastfeed
  • Reduce the use of infant formula in hospitals
  • Facilitated stronger bonding and maternal satisfaction
  • It encourages a newborn’s body to regulate their temperature. 
  • Reduces newborn stress 
  • Reduces the need for a NICU admission

All of these benefits are why many hospitals now encourage “couplet care,” which is when newborns and mothers stay together.

Keep Mom and Baby Together

Over the last several years, more mothers began to vocalize their desires to stay with their babies, and their desires are evidence-based. We know that skin to skin contact and babies staying with their mother allows for:

  • An increased rate of successful breastfeeding
  • Quicker time to the first breastfeed
  • Reduce the use of infant formula in hospitals
  • Facilitated stronger bonding and maternal satisfaction
  • It encourages a newborn’s body to regulate their temperature.
  • Reduces newborn stress
  • Reduces the need for a NICU admission

It is important to note that some mothers may be unable to care for their infants immediately after or for several hours after a c-section.

Potent sedatives or sleep-deprived mothers may need supervision or assistance. However, that’s not a reason to remove mom and baby from each other. Instead, it means that the hospital staff needs to provide more help until the mother feels better.

This is interesting:

Skin to Skin with Dad

If for whatever reason, mom and baby are unable to stay together, then research shows the next best method is to have your partner hold the baby. One study shows that infants held skin to skin by their fathers stopped crying and became calmer, and they reached a drowsy state earlier.

Be sure to write that into your birth plan, so the staff knows your wishes!

Do Your Research First

One thing I suggest to mothers is to do your research beforehand. I lucked out because my hospital changed policies in the two years before delivering my second and third baby. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask your hospital whether they practice skin to skin and breastfeeding in the operating room.

If your hospital doesn’t support this practice, you can opt to deliver elsewhere. Call other doctors and hospitals in your area to learn about their policies. Talk to your OBGYN or midwife to understand their practice.

If your hospital doesn’t permit this after a c-section birth, share evidence-based information from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. Their policies indicate that all babies need to breastfeed as soon as possible, and that might include the operating room or recovery area.

One day, all hospitals will offer skin to skin in the OR after a c-section, but for now, women must advocate for what they want. I’m thankful for my two fantastic experiences, and I encourage all mothers to seek this experience as well. It’s worth it! 

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