C-sections are among the most common surgical procedures performed in the world.
Debate rages on as to how high a country’s c-section rate should be, and whether women are experiencing this surgery unnecessarily, because of interference in the natural process of birth.
There is no doubt that a c-section is major abdominal surgery – but it’s still the birth of a baby.
Many new parents find themselves meeting their baby briefly over a surgical drape, then not being able to see or touch their baby until quite some time later.
Gentle C-Sections Are Better For Mothers And Babies
Women who have c-sections often report feeling like a failure, or guilty, because they haven’t been able to experience early bonding with their babies.
But what if women could experience surgical births that are more in line with what is now considered best practice for vaginal birth?
What Is A Gentle C-Section?
Also known as a ‘natural c-section,’ a gentle c-section mimics normal vaginal birth, allowing the baby to be expelled slowly and without force.
The idea was conceived by Professor Nicholas Fisk almost 10 years ago. At the time, Professor Fisk was a consultant obstetrician at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in London. He saw there was a need for reform in the approach to c-section birth.
Professor Fisk and his colleagues – Dr Felicity Plaat, consultant anaesthetist, and Jenny Smith, a senior midwife and author – published a research paper in 2008. In it they demonstrated how gentle c-sections could be performed, and how they could benefit women and babies.
Here’s how it works:
- After the uterine incision is made, the surgical drape is lowered and the table head is raised, which allows the mother to see what is happening
- As her head comes through the incision, the baby will begin to breathe air through her nose/mouth while still attached to the placenta
- The baby’s body will remain in utero for a few minutes, as the pressure will help push out the fluid from her lungs
- When the baby begins to cry, the obstetrician will ease out her shoulders and she will bring out her own arms
- While observing vital signs, the obstetrician will support the baby so the mother is able to see her
- The baby is expelled through uterine contractions and by wriggling out, as the obstetrician supports her head
- The cord is clamped and cut, then the baby is passed to a midwife, who is positioned at the mother’s head. The midwife is scrubbed so as not to contaminate the obstetrician, who will proceed to finish the surgery
- After the mother’s gown has been moved, the baby is placed on her chest, and covered with warm towels
- Skin to skin and early breastfeeding are supported, while the baby and mother are observed for wellbeing.
Why Is A Gentle C-Section Better?
First, the mother can be involved by watching her baby emerge. This first sight is an incredibly important moment and a typical c-section doesn’t allow for it, as she is lying flat on her back and the drape is blocking her view. By having a gentle c-section, the mother doesn’t feel as though she is the last person to see her baby; she can also discover her baby’s gender earlier as well.
C-sections are usually performed quite quickly. There are usually only a few minutes between making the incision and pulling out the baby. With a gentle c-section, the baby is able to begin to breathe unaided (autoresuscitate) as the placenta is still attached and providing oxygen.
Pressure from the uterine contractions and maternal tissues is applied to the baby’s torso. This, as well as the baby’s own movements, allows the lungs to expel fluid in a similar way to a normal vaginal birth, which reduces the risk of the baby needing resuscitation or special care – both common occurrences after c-sections.
Once the baby is completely free of the uterus, immediate skin to skin bonding is initiated. This is made possible by placing monitoring equipment on the mother’s back, rather than on her chest. The level of anaesthetic used to numb the lower part of the body is also reduced, so the mother doesn’t experience any heavinesss in her arms and hands, and is able to hold her baby.
Promoting immediate skin to skin and undisturbed bonding after c-section birth would allow mothers and babies to experience so many benefits. It also promotes early breastfeeding, which is also extremely beneficial.
Interested in knowing more, or need help convincing your care provider to get on board?
Read 7 Huge Benefits Of An Undisturbed First Hour After Birth.
Can I Plan A Gentle C-Section?
Most women don’t really think about the possibility of a c-section happening to them. Yet statistics show between 20-35% of women in countries such as the UK, Australia and the US have their babies by c-section.
When making a birth plan, it is important to think about the ‘what ifs’. A possible unplanned (emergency) c-section falls into this category.
Alternatively, you might be among those women who have an elective, or planned, c-section due to medical reasons.
Whether a c-section is a remote or definite possibility, it can’t hurt to think about how you want your baby’s birth to unfold.
Making plans to have a gentle c-section doesn’t automatically mean you will have a c-section. Most women prefer, and hope, to avoid a surgical birth. Having a Plan B – just in case – doesn’t mean you are opting for a c-section over a vaginal birth.
Knowing you have the option, in case you do need a c-section, can give you peace of mind.
Is There A Reason I Can’t Have A Gentle C-Section?
The biggest obstacle to having a gentle c-section will undoubtedly come from your care provider. Obstetricans and staff might be reluctant to change a routine procedure, preferring the way they have performed it many times.
A gentle c-section requires the obstetrician performing the surgery to engage with the woman as a mother, not just as a patient. It requires staff to work together in a different way, with an acceptance that what is best practice at a vaginal birth is also achievable in a surgical one.
If you or your baby are in immediate danger, if your baby is in a breech position, or will be born prematurely, a gentle c-section is not suitable for you.