Many moms have an idea of what they want their labor and birth to look like. However, after making some big pregnancy decisions, like where you will give birth and who your care provider will be, you often have little control over the events that occur. Many women have a desire to have an unmedicated vaginal birth. But for whatever reason, some end up having a medicated cesarean delivery. Data from the Centers for Disease Control has found that about 31% of mamas will give birth by cesarean in the United States.1 While a cesarean birth may not be your first choice, there may be an option that you should consider discussing with your provider if a cesarean becomes necessary: the gentle cesarean.
What You Should Know About a Gentle Cesarean
Types of Cesareans
There are three different types of cesareans:
Emergent cesareans are the least common and require quick and seamless intervention to deliver your baby safely. There typically isn’t much time to explain or provide special accommodations in this circumstance. In this situation, as your medical providers, our goal is to get you into the operating room and deliver your baby as soon as possible.
In the instances of scheduled or nonemergent cesareans, there is typically time to discuss and implement delivery preferences with your medical care providers. During your pregnancy, I highly recommend educating yourself about delivery preference options available to you. You may find during this education that there are specific preferences that align with your beliefs and desires. Of course, I always recommend discussing these preferences with your care providers and partner during your pregnancy.
What is a Gentle Cesarean?
A gentle cesarean, sometimes referred to as a “family-centered birth,” may appeal to you. This is a surgical procedure in which your baby will be born but helps incorporate some practices that may help it feel less “surgical.”
During a routine cesarean birth, it is customary for a mother to wear a surgical gown with her arms sometimes strapped down and drapes hung, so you cannot see the procedure. However, during a gentle cesarean, the mother may wear her own gown (if the hospital approves) and have her hands free. They may use a clear drape, so the mother and partner can see the baby being born!
Sometimes medical providers will dim the lights, incorporate limited talking, and play music of your choice. They may move medical equipment that allows quicker skin-to-skin access and easier bonding with your baby. A gentle cesarean birth may also allow the partner and newborn to remain in the operating room during the surgical procedure.
After pediatric evaluation, the baby can be moved from the warmer to the mother’s chest while still on the operating room table. Studies have shown that skin-to-skin in the first hour after birth can help babies transition from womb to world, help regulate their body temperature, respiratory rate, glucose levels, and improve breastfeeding success.2 There are numerous benefits for mothers as well. These include decreased bleeding after delivery, lower levels of the stress hormone (cortisol), and improved bonding, to name a few! As a labor, delivery, and postpartum nurse who has been present in many cesarean births, I have even seen babies latch to the breast while mom is still on the operating room table. It is one of the most amazing things ever!
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Specify a Gentle Cesarean in Your Birth Plan
I recommend that my clients write out their birth preferences and speak about each specific request they have with their providers. This helps open the communication and allows you to learn about the specifics and how they apply to you and your family. This will also enable you and your partner to dig in a bit more to specific preferences that you are interested in and educate yourselves.
When writing out your birth preferences, you may want to indicate what you’d like to be included if a cesarean becomes the delivery method for your baby. You may suggest that you not only wish to have a gentle cesarean but perhaps include what this means specifically for you. For example, maybe you would like your partner to be at the head of the bed with you. Or you want your partner and baby to remain in the operating room with you until after your procedure is completed. You can include specifics like having the lights dimmed, for music to be playing, for a clear drape to be used, etc. This is a great way to communicate to all of the providers caring for you on the day of your labor and birth.
Your Birth, Your Story
Remember, no matter how you birth your baby, you’re amazing! For some, having a cesarean birth may be a disappointing outcome. It may take some time to process. That is okay! A gentle cesarean may help create an environment where you feel you have more control and may feel a little more “natural.”
Some mamas may prefer to discuss having an elective cesarean birth with their providers. That is okay too! Your birth is your own story. Writing as much of your story as possible is typically pretty important to most moms. Educate yourself and have conversations with your provider. And remember how incredible you are no matter the outcome!