A family-centered or gentle Cesarean (C-section) is similar to a traditional C-section, but with a few small changes in the procedure to allow you and your partner to feel more a part of the birth. Just like a traditional C-section, a gentle C-section is major surgery and should not be considered as an alternative to vaginal birth unless medically necessary.
At Women’s Specialists of Northside Gwinnett, this type of C-section is an option that Dr. Watkins offers to her patients. During this procedure, the following accommodations can be made:
- Better view of the birth: If you desire, Dr. Watkins will use a special clear drape during the delivery of your child. The normal blue surgical drape will be lowered as she delivers your newborn so you can see and touch your child through the clear drape. You and your partner will not be able to see anything you do not wish to. The baby and the surgery are at such an eye level that only your baby will be visible. Once the baby is handed to the NICU team, the blue surgical drape will be returned.
- Slower delivery: Your baby may be delivered slowly to allow time for the chest to be squeezed on the way out, as in a vaginal birth, to clear the lungs of fluid.
- Skin-to-skin contact: Once your newborn has been cleared by the NICU team, your newborn will be placed on your chest (and covered with a warm towel) after delivery for skin-to-skin contact and to encourage early breastfeeding. As long as the baby is stable he/she will stay with you for the rest of the surgery. Your baby will then accompany you to the recovery room where he/she will complete skin-to-skin.
- Less restrictive equipment: Your hands are not strapped down, leaving your hands free to hold your baby. The surgical drape is also placed differently to facilitate the skin-to-skin interaction with your baby.
- Delayed cord clamping: While you are watching your baby take its first breaths through the clear drape, delayed cord clamping of 1-2 minutes is allowed to occur.
While this type of birth is still considered major surgery, the benefits include:
- Feeling more connected to the birth process: Many women who undergo a regular C-section feel powerless and disconnected during delivery. Being able to view your baby’s birth allows you to feel like you are participating in the process.
- Improved bonding with your baby: In a typical C-section, you might not get to hold your baby until you’re in the recovery room, and even if you have contact with him/her earlier, you may be somewhat sedated. It is an incredibly powerful experience for a new mom to be able to hold and comfort her baby right after birth. Newborns often stop crying when they hear the sound of their mom’s voice and feel the warmth of her skin.
- Potential for greater satisfaction with the birth experience: Studies show that women who have C-sections are less satisfied with their childbirth experience than those who deliver vaginally. Although there is not much research on the impact of gentle C-sections, one study showed significantly increased satisfaction with the birth experience when gentle C-section techniques were employed.
- Better health for baby: Research has shown that immediate skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the baby’s body temperature and heart rate and facilitates bonding and successful breastfeeding.
- Maternal mood enhancement: Your feelings about the birth experience can influence your postpartum emotional state. Therefore, it makes sense that a gentle C-section instead of a traditional C-section might help stave off postpartum depression stemming from a suboptimal birth experience.