'Gentle C-Section' Birth Trend May Be Coming to a Hospital Near You

Health Check 28

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



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femal... femaleMIKE

I don't think that side conversations should be happening in the OR while the patient is alert.  Its rude, It makes you feel less of a person.  

I heard that the arm strap down was for safety reasons. What is the reasoning behind that

KenneMaw KenneMaw

I had a c-section in 2001 and it was a nice experience.  I adored my ob-gyn and the hospital was fantastic.   All of the topics listed above are great and should be addressed with your doctor or health care provider.   it would be interesting to see how many women can handle seeing the surgery though.  I will say that i am fine with the staff making sure the baby is OK (extra suctioning, etc..)  before I see him/her.  Their safety and health rules over my desire to see him/her.

femal... femaleMIKE

If I had to have a c section.  The only thing I would ask for is RESPECT (for my husband and I).  I need to meet everyone in the operating room and know their roles.  I want to know every step that is to be taken and why. I want to be told what they are doing before they do it. For example, I don't want anyone grabbing/touching me before they tell me why.   I don't want any gawkers (eager students)

I would make no demands. 

Za245 Za245

I think it's a great alternative to "classic" c-sections. I especially like that they make an effort to provide skin to skin contact between mother and baby, which is something I know I'd miss if I had to have a c-section.

nonmember avatar KMac

I had a great experience with my C-section (except for the coming-down-off-the-morphine bit, which made me itch like nobody's business). The one and only thing I didn't like is that my daughter was taken away for quite a while, and it seemed like forever until I got her back. Immediate skin-to-skin contact would've been really nice.

the4m... the4mutts

I think its a fantastic notion. I have never had a csection, and I will not be having more children *hooray tubal litigation!* but for future births, I think more doctors/hospitals should think outside their 1.cut 2.yank 3.take away method of delivering babies by csection

chigi... chigirl1228

I like this idea for mothers who would want that. Even tho I'm not one of them. Lol I loved the drape bc I can't handle even watching them stick an IV in. But I was jealous a little that my boyfriend was the first to hold the baby instead of me. I had to wait until I came out of recovery. She was whisked away bc of merconium (sp?). But my OR experience was actually pretty good compared to others I guess. No other conversation besides the operation and they always told me what they were doing. Not the doctors but they had a person sitting beside my head monitering the IV drip and explaining everything and keeping me updated on when it would be all over. I was introduced to everyone and even tho they strapped my arms down it was probably for the best bc I had uncontrollable shakes from the morphine. All in all I guess the only thing I missed was being the first to hold my baby. But her safety takes priority over my wishes any day. I wouldn't have changed anything about my c-section experience and I am probably one of the few but much preferred it over the vaginal delivery.

nonmember avatar blh

Who the hell would want to see their body cut open and their organs laying next to them??

Gypsy... GypsyMa76

I love it, 6 weeks away from having my 2nd & my first was a nightmare emergency C-section, i didn't get to hold see my daughter for 6 hours after & she was totally fine. I went for a tour at a new hospital (geeze go figure) & what you explained above is what they said what procedure there for a C-section. I can say I an excited to watch & then immediately breastfeed. Hopefully my lil bun is ready for it too :)

Kimberley Scarano Lucchese

I'm with you chigirl1228.  I didn't have my first c-section by choice but it was an awesome experience, exactly as you described.  I chose to have my second the same way, with the foreknowledge that the meds would make me freezing and they addressed that perfectly.  My doctor offered me a VBAC and I declined.  

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