“The lights are bright and I’m surrounded by uniformed strangers. I lay on my back on an operating table, unable to see my body below my chest. I am numb and nauseous. I feel and do nothing as my baby is lifted from my belly. I cannot lift my arms to embrace my child, who is checked, warmed, and washed across the room, and finally brought to me swaddled up tight.”
I’d be willing to bet money that when most mothers envision their birthing experiences, the one above doesn’t fit the description. Unfortunately, delivering by c-section is a reality for many women in the US. You may have a medical condition that requires a scheduled C-section. You may be induced, which doubles your risk of needing a C-section. You may want a backup plan if you are hoping for a VBAC. Or you may be a low-risk mom hoping for a natural birth who just wants to be prepared for the chance that things go differently than planned. While many of the cesareans performed in our country are likely avoidable, some of them are not. Sometimes, a C-section is truly medically necessary.
But it doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t have to be impersonal. It doesn’t have to rob you of the important first momentsof bonding with your baby, or take away all of the health benefits of a vaginal birth. It doesn’t have to mean your chances of postpartum depression or breastfeeding difficulties will be increased. It doesn’t have to be a negative experience.
Enter the Natural Cesarean.
“The lights are dim, soft soothing music is playing, and I’m accompanied by my partner, my doula, and our trusted care providers. I am wearing my own comfortable clothing. After the incision is made, the drape is dropped so that we can watch our baby’s head lifted from my belly. A pause allows my uterine muscles to expel any lung liquid, and my partner and I can look into our baby’s eyes. Then baby is eased from my body by my contractions, with a little help from the OB. The anesthesiologist clears my clothing from my free arm and my baby is brought to my chest, where we can be skin to skin and baby can start suckling right away.”
The bottom line, mamas, is that you always (unless it’s an emergency surgery) have options. First of all, make sure a cesarean is absolutely necessary for you. If it is, inform yourself of your choices, stand up for your wishes, and make your birth experience as positive as you can.
Try these things to achieve a more natural cesarean:
- See if it’s possible to book the procedure on the due date and/or allow mom to go into labor. Baby will likely be more mature and ready to be born, and endorphins released in labor can stimulate baby’s immune system.
- Ask if the operating room can be warmed up so the temperature is not a shock to baby coming from a warm womb.
- Dim the lights before baby emerges if possible, for a gentle and welcoming environment.
- Play familiar music at the time of birth.
- Deliver baby slowly in view of mom and dad.
- Once baby is breathing and doctors have established that suctioning is not required, place baby immediately onto mom’s exposed chest. Keep baby warm with towels/blankets.
- Examine baby on mom’s chest rather than examination table. (Monitoring electrodes can be attached to the mother’s side so the baby doesn’t get tangled in the wires).
- Have dad hold and talk to baby while mom is moved from the operating table to her bed.
- Omit medical interventions such as washing off the vernix, vitamin K injection and antibiotic eye drops unless there is a problem with the baby.
- Encourage breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth.
To learn more about natural cesareans, visit the links below.
Family-Centered Cesarean–ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) White Papers
Ideas for the best cesarean possible–by Penny Simkin. Free PDF printable.
Delivered safely by caesarean with his mother’s hands (“assisted cesarean”)–The Age (Australia)