A ‘Gentle C-Section’ Can Help You Feel Like You Have More Control During A Surgical Birth

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c-section scarWhile some mothers are vocal about how pleased they were with having a cesarean birth, for other moms, having a c-section is something they wish they could change about their birth experience.  A common fear and complaint about c-sections is that while they achieve the goal of a successful delivery, they don’t allow mothers to bond with their baby and are overly mechanical procedures.  For expectant moms facing a c-section with these concerns, some hospitals are offering a solution called the gentle c-section.

Stephanie Branly had an emergency c-section three years ago. When she became pregnant for a second time, her hospital offered her the option of a gentle c-section, with skin to skin contact right after the birth of her daughter. Branly told Yahoo Parenting that unlike the long and painful recovery after her first c-section, with the gentle c-section, she was up and walking the next day and found it to be a more pleasant experience.

The gentle c-section, or Family Centered Cesarean, as it’s called in England, is becoming more popular in the United States as an option for women who require a c-section but want to feel more in control of their birth experience. Gentle c-sections procedures will vary by hospital, but usually include not strapping both mom’s arms down during the operation and placing the EKG leads on her back instead of her chest, so she can have skin to skin contact with the baby immediately following the birth. If you’ve been working with a doula and planned to have them present during your birth, some hospitals break the traditional “one person only” rule during a gentle c-section and allow a doula in the operating room in addition to a spouse or partner.

At  Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston they offer the option of switching out the medical drape right before delivery to a clear drape so that the mother can see her child being delivered. St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Southern California and the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York are other hospitals who recognize the benefits of the gentle c-section.

A cesarean is major surgery. Beyond the physical effort required to heal from the procedure, new moms also have to sort through how they feel about not having a vaginal birth. Some women are perfectly content with having a c-section, and I wish I was one of them. When my own twins were born, even though I knew throughout my pregnancy that a c-section was a possibility and I thought I was mentally prepared for it, I was surprised how out of control I felt at the time of the birth. I’m grateful for the medical techniques that allowed my sons and I to survive, but I wonder if I would feel differently if my c-section had been a “gentle” one. Obviously if the mother or baby faces complications during or after the c-section, health can and should take precedent over bonding with the baby, but in the case of a routine c-section, even these little things can go a long way for those moms who want them.

If you’re putting together a birth plan for your first birth  and you’re nervous about the possibility of a c-section or you’re facing a scheduled c-section after being unhappy with a previous one, consider talking to your OB about a gentle c-section and what can be done to make your birth experience as positive as possible.

(image: Artem_Furman/