What Is a Gentle Cesarean? - Baby Chick
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What Is a Gentle Cesarean?

Learn what you need to know about a gentle cesarean, including how it works and why you should specify it in your birth plan.

Published February 4, 2022

by Ashley Derderian Sousa

Labor & Delivery Nurse, BSN, RN, IBCLC

Medically reviewed by Stephanie Sublett

Board-Certified OB/GYN, FACOG, IBCLC

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. 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 is an option you should consider discussing with your provider if a cesarean becomes necessary: the gentle cesarean.

What You Should Know About a Gentle Cesarean

Learn about the different types of cesareans and everything you need to know about the gentle cesarean:

Types of Cesareans

There are three different types of cesareans:4

  1. Scheduled cesareans
  2. Unplanned cesareans
  3. Emergent 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. As your medical providers, our goal is to get you into the operating room and deliver your baby as soon as possible.4

In scheduled and unplanned cesareans, there is typically time to discuss and implement delivery preferences with your medical care providers.3,4 During your pregnancy, I highly recommend educating yourself about the delivery preference options available to you. You may find 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 called a “family-centered birth,” may appeal to you. This is a surgical procedure in which your baby will be born, but it incorporates practices to help it feel less “surgical.”5

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.6 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!7

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.5

After pediatric evaluation, the baby can be moved from the warmer to the mother’s chest while still on the operating room table.5 Studies have shown that skin-to-skin in the first hour after birth can help babies transition from womb to world. It can also improve breastfeeding success and help regulate their body temperature, respiratory rate, and glucose levels.2 There are numerous benefits for mothers as well. These include decreased bleeding after delivery, lower stress hormone (cortisol) levels, and improved bonding, to name a few!2,6 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 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 into your preferences more 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 wish to have a gentle cesarean and 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 the procedure is complete. You can include specifics like for the lights to be dimmed, for music to be playing, for a clear drape to be used, etc. This is a great way to communicate to all 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. It may also feel a little more “natural.”

Some mamas 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 pretty important to most moms. Educate yourself and have conversations with your provider. And remember how incredible you are, no matter the outcome.

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A woman with long blonde hair is standing on a beach, holding a smiling baby wearing a denim shirt and a bow headband. The ocean waves are visible in the background, and both appear to be enjoying their time by the sea.
Ashley Derderian Sousa Labor & Delivery Nurse, BSN, RN, IBCLC
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Ashley Derderian Sousa, RN, IBCLC, is a registered nurse and a board-certified lactation consultant with 12 years of experience, spending the past 8 of those years providing care as a… Read more

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