When I had my first son by C-section, things were a little scary. I'd been on magnesium sulfate for high blood pressure, attempts at kick-starting labor had failed, and I was sick and worried and generally just sort of ill-prepared for everything that was happening.

My second C-section was a totally different story: I was ready, I knew what to expect, and my medical team couldn't have been more gentle and informative. Although my newborn was briefly taken aside after birth to be examined, my husband had him minutes later, and he was curled up in my arms by the time I was wheeled out of surgery.

I know not everyone has such a positive surgical experience, though, which is why I'm very interested to hear about a new birth option called the "Gentle Caesarean." For those who long for low-intervention birth but require a caesarean for medical reasons, the gentle C-section seems to provide the best of both worlds.

During a typical C-section, your abdomen is covered with a drape during the procedure. Your arm (or both arms) may be strapped down during the surgery, and the baby is usually taken away immediately after birth—the reason being that excess mucus in the baby's respiratory tract wasn't squeezed out during a journey through the birth canal, and some extra suctioning is often necessary to clear the lungs.

However, some hospitals are offering a "gentle" version of the C-section, which includes the option to have your baby immediately placed on your chest after the birth. A British doctor, Professor Nick Fisk, pioneered this method a few years ago when he not only gave patients a full view of the procedure, he slowed down the surgery itself to allow patients to feel more connected to what was happening—and, in theory, making it more safe to provide instant skin to skin contact between baby and mother:

By leaving the baby's body inside the uterus for longer once the head is out, the body is squeezed and you see the lung liquid coming out of the baby's nose. Unless there are other risk factors, I've never known a baby born by my method to have problems -- going straight onto the mother's chest helps regulate breathing.

Today there are birth programs that support the gentle c-section philosophy, allowing mothers to create surgery-specific birth plans. Requests might include:

  • I do not want my arms strapped down to the table
  • I would like a mirror to be able to watch my baby come out
  • I would prefer to have the drape let down to see my baby be born
  • I want to breastfeed my baby immediately after birth in the OR and have skin on skin contact
  • I would like for my partner to cut the cord and for delayed cord clamping/donation to take place
  • Please don't carry on side conversations in the OR or talk over me
  • I want my baby with me or my partner at all times
  • I would like to be guided through the procedure and told what is happening

Personally, as long as the mother's desires don't take priority over safety, I think it's a fantastic idea. If a gentle C-section helps someone feel more empowered and secure during birth, it seems like a wonderful option, and I'm a little surprised it hasn't become more common in recent years.

As Dr. Fisk said back in 2005,

Whatever your view on caesareans, for some women it's always going to be the safest choice. And while couples having (vaginal) deliveries have been given more and more opportunities to be fully involved in childbirth, very little has been done to see how we could make the experience more meaningful for those having caesareans.

What do you think of the "gentle C-section" option? Would you opt for one if you needed a caesarean?



Image via Linda Sharps