After months of careful consideration, researching birthing pools and practising breathing techniques, some women are disappointed to discover that the type of birth they hoped for is simply not going to happen. Sometimes, a caesarean section is needed for babies to be born safely or for mamma to give birth safely. But that doesn't mean your preference for gentle choices can't get a look in.
In an emergency situation, gentle caesarean plans may go out the window, either completely or partially. But as long as your partner is well aware of your preferences, he or she can go into bat for you, pushing for the elements that appeal to you the most.
There is no hard and fast definition of what a mother-friendly caesarean is, however below are the requests most commonly made by women hoping to have a gentle caesarean section:
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #1: Dim The Lights
Lowering the lights can help to create a more intimate, safe and comfortable environment for the mother. At homebirths, some women choose to give birth by candlelight. While this wouldn't really be practical in a surgical theatre, it is possible to lower the lights and create a more relaxed environment for the expectant couple.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #2: Hit Play
For women who may already have dedicated hours to compiling the perfect playmix for childbirth, this means you haven't wasted your time. Instead of silence, or listening to music chosen by the medical staff, you get to choose the music playing at your birth. By choosing calm and relaxing music, you can help yourself to feel more comfortable during the birth.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #3: Include Your Birth Partner
Birth partners play an important role in supporting the mother during childbirth. Some birth partners may feel overwhelmed when that birth is a caesarean, and feel unsure of how to be useful. In a mother-friendly caesarean, the birth partner is encouraged to play an active role in the birth. From reassuring the mother, to watching the baby being born, and accompanying baby to any postnatal tests, the birth partner is an important player.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #4: Bring A Doula
If you had organised a doula to support you during the birth, it still may be possible for your doula to accompany you into the operating theatre. Traditionally, surgical theatres limit the number of people allowed into the room, so doulas were often left waiting in the corridor. In a mother-friendly caesarean, however, the role of the doula is valued, and they are able to stay throughout the birth to provide support to both parents.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #5: Slow Things Down
From the procedures to the birth, caesareans are generally done with speed “ but this is not the case if you have a mother-friendly caesarean. If there is no medical reason for rushing the birth, the obstetrician will be able to slow down the operation and give you chance to fully experience the birth of your baby.
The birth process helps to prepare a baby for life outside the womb. For example, the amniotic fluid that has been protecting your baby's lungs in utero is squeezed out during a vaginal birth, allowing your baby to breathe easily once in the outside world. During a traditional caesarean, the baby is lifted quickly out of the uterus, preventing the clearing of the lungs. Some babies can encounter breathing problems as a result.
During a mother-friendly caesarean, your baby will be slowly removed from the uterus. Once the baby's head is out, the surgeon may wait a few minutes before lifting the baby's body out. This extra time spent in the uterus can help the lungs to be cleared.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #6: Watch The Birth
Traditionally, caesareans are carried out behind a drape, with the mother-to-be lying flat on the table. Unfortunately this means that a mother is unable to see her baby until he or she is placed in her arms. In a gentle caesarean, the drape can be lowered to allow the mother to see her baby being born. The abdominal incision will remain hidden from view, but you will be able to see your baby being gently lifted out from your uterus. In a mother-friendly caesarean, time and care is taken to allow women to feel more involved in the birth process.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #7: Skin To Skin
Immediate skin to skin is considered to be best practice for caesarean births, but that doesn't mean it always happens. At a mother-friendly caesarean, skin to skin is a given. Where possible, this is done before any tests are done on the baby. The baby should be lifted out and immediately placed in your arms, allowing you to begin the bonding process that will last you the rest of your lives. As well as aiding with bonding, skin to skin immediately after birth has been found to regulate the baby's body temperature, and increase the likelihood of breastfeeding.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #8: Delayed Cord Clamping
Mother-friendly caesareans are all about slowing things down and allowing the mother to play an active role in the birth. If you would like to delay cord clamping, then include this in your birth plan. If there is no medical reason for clamping immediately, your healthcare provider may honour your wishes and allow you to wait until the blood has stopped pulsing between placenta and baby, before cutting the cord.
Delayed cord clamping offers your baby significant health benefits, which you can read more about here.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #9: Limited Separation
The immediate aftermath of the birth is really important for mother-baby bonding. Though in the past this may have been disregarded in a surgical environment, it is now understood to have the potential to have a lasting impact on both mother and baby. In a mother-friendly caesarean, the amount of time you spent separated from your baby will be limited. If your baby does need to leave your side for testing, your birth partner will be encouraged to accompany the baby in your absence.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #10: Breastfeeding
If you are planning to breastfeed, your healthcare provider will do all they can to ensure you are given the chance to breastfeed within the first 30 minutes of your baby's life. Breastfeeding within that first half hour increases your chances of successful breastfeeding, and is considered to be an important part of postnatal care. You are even able to breastfeed whilst still on the operating table.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #11: Dads Stick Around
If you have a caesarean, you will be expected to stay in hospital for a little while longer than you would after a natural birth. Traditionally, this has meant dads being sent home alone, only able to return during visiting hours, and the new mother left to look after the baby alone. After a mother-friendly caesarean, your healthcare provider will do all that they can to offer you a home from home experience. The father will be encouraged to stick around after the birth to bond with his baby and support you in your recovery.
Mother-Friendly Caesarean Tip #12: Quiet Time
Some hospital wards have even implemented a quiet time to give women some privacy after a caesarean. Quiet time will be a scheduled time each day (for example, 2pm until 4pm) during which medical staff will not enter your room unless requested. This gives you the chance to enjoy some privacy, bond with your baby and become more comfortable with breastfeeding. Hospitals can be hectic places, and it can be difficult to truly relax in one, but this short period of privacy each day can allow to you feel that you have your own space.
Requesting A Mother-Friendly Caesarean
If you need to have a scheduled caesarean, be sure to request a mother-friendly caesarean from your obstetrician “ however do be prepared that some will say no. Don't let it put you off, because you can get a second opinion and research your options, in order to find an obstetrician who will try to work with your requests. Some obstetricians are much more open than others in helping their patients achieve a more gentle experience than others.
The more we talk about mother-friendly caesareans and share these ideas, the more demand there will be “ and the more flexible obstetricians will need to become (where safe to do so). Identify the elements of a mother-friendly caesarean which most appeal to you, and ask your medical team about which of these things are possible in your hospital.
Mothers Who Have Done It
There have been several stories in the news of mothers having mother-friendly caesareans. Check out this article way back from 2007 where a mother was given the opportunity to lift her own baby up to her chest during a caesarean. The look on her face is very different to what you would normally see in other caesarean photos. Lets give mothers more experiences like that.
Source: The Age, Photo: Eamonn Mcnulty