Family-centered or gentle cesarean birth

Family-centered or gentle cesarean birth

skin-to-skinLately there’s been buzz about options for family-centered cesarean or gentle cesarean births. But what does that mean for families pursuing this option? How do you know what your options will be? How is this different from a traditional cesarean birth?

In many hospitals, a cesarean birth means that parents will not get to hold their baby right away. In some cases, they may not even get to see the baby immediately; instead, baby may be routinely whisked away for screenings and care. The birthing person’s arms may be strapped down, which can be a really stressful experience. For parents who may have been planning on a vaginal delivery and spending the golden hour after birth with skin-to-skin time, this can be a scary or disappointing experience.

Some hospitals are offering what’s commonly referred to as a gentle cesarean or family-centered cesarean. A gentle cesarean birth aims to improve the birth experience for parents and babies having a C-section, making it feel less clinical and more like the parents envisioned birth to be.

However, what this means definitely varies from hospital to hospital. In some cases, families have an option to have a clear drape if they would like to be able to view baby as he or she is lifted from the uterus. In some cases, parents may have opportunity for skin-to-skin time with baby right after birth. In addition to its benefits for improving breastfeeding outcomes for those choosing to breastfeed, that skin-to-skin time benefits the birthing parent with less breast engorgement, pain, and anxiety come day three and benefits babies with less crying and improved likelihood of heart rate, respiration, and temperature remaining stable. Parents and babies both do best starting out skin-to-skin whenever possible. In addition, gentle cesarean sections may require many small changes to the typical operating room setup to accommodate this skin-to-skin time, for example, bringing in an additional nurse to care for baby, to moving the location of monitors, not strapping the birthing person down, and even considering IV placement to make it easier for the birthing person to hold baby.

So how do you know what your own options will be should a cesarean become necessary? Talk to your doula, who is familiar with options you’ll have should a cesarean birth be necessary. Even some of the hospitals that state they offer gentle cesareans don’t always make those options available in reality. Know your rights, know your choices, know your hospital’s policies, and work with your doula to create a birth plan that includes your choices for cesarean contingency. Want to know more? Contact me now.

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