Childbirth is hard work. Whether a woman labors for hours or has a preplanned surgical delivery, expectant women want to make the best of a miraculous, yet otherwise uncomfortable experience.
Now some doctors are trying to do just that for women undergoing cesarean sections, which account for nearly one-third of all U.S. births.
It’s called a “gentle” or “family-centered” C-section, and the point is to mimic some of the more patient-centered elements of vaginal deliveries. For example, instead of blue surgical drapes, parents can choose clear ones to allow them to see their baby being born. Skin-to-skin contact between mother/baby and breastfeeding is also encouraged.
Dr. Jane Frederick, the medical director of HRC Fertility in Orange County, California, is an internationally known specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. She answered our questions about the gentle C-section trend.
Q. Is a gentle C-section something that is planned between the OB-GYN and patient?
A. Gentle C-sections are becoming increasingly popular in hospitals all around the world. This is a twist on the standard C-section procedure, and is something that must be planned between a patient and [her] doctor ahead of time as [the] “birthing plan.”
Q. Can a mother-to-be have a gentle C-section if it is deemed an emergency?
A. Depending on the nature of the emergency, a gentle C-section might still be an option for the mother-to-be, as long as it doesn’t pose a life threat to baby and mommy.
Q. What are the benefits of this new procedure?
A. The gentle C-section offers a more natural approach to the C-section to promote more skin-to-skin contact and bonding for mother and baby. The gentle C-section is a way for the mother and partner to have the closest experience to a natural child birth as possible without being rushed through a cesarean procedure. The room is quiet with calming music, and monitoring attachments are placed on different areas of the mother’s body to allow her skin-to-skin contact and to hold her baby immediately after birth. The birthing process is slowed down, and the mother even has the option to watch the procedure with the help of strategically placed mirrors. Once baby is born, there is immediate skin-to-skin contact, and the doctor waits to clamp and cut the baby’s umbilical cord. Moms can even breastfeed immediately if desired.
Q. How new is this procedure?
A. The gentle C-section is a rather new approach to the C-section with only a few years in the making. Although not fully embraced, the gentle C-section is becoming increasingly popular in hospitals across the globe.
Q. Are more doctors open to gentle C-sections?
More and more doctors are recognizing the gentle C-section as a beneficial option for their patients and the birth experience, creating a calm environment and bonding experience for mother and baby.
Q. Why aren’t all C-sections performed this way, and what are the dangers, if any?
The gentle C-section can be performed as long as there are no medical risks to mom and baby. The downside to this new kind of C-section is that it’s becoming more and more popular, and patients will now steer toward having a gentle C-section rather than natural childbirth. It’s important to note that the C-section, whether gentle or not, can still pose a risk to mother and baby. Patients should consult with their doctor to see if the gentle C-section option is the best birthing plan for them.
Anne Wooten Green is a freelance writer in Winston-Salem.