What is a Gentle Cesarean?

April is Cesarean Birth Awareness Month.

This month we are celebrating all the brave mothers who have given birth via c-section, advancements in cesarean care and the extraordinary way this birth process is changing.

Cesarean births are evolving to improve the experience for new families, making the procedure feel more like birth and less like a major operation.

Traditionally, cesarean birth can be emotionally trying on a mother and sometimes stressful for baby. A cesarean birth often keeps the surgical site sterile by placing a cloth or curtain between the mother’s view and the procedure. Once the baby is delivered, the newborn is whisked immediately aside for their assessment or taken to the NICU if necessary, which means the mother may not be able to see, hold or nurse her newborn for hours.

Gentle cesarean birth is different.

In a gentle or family centered cesarean birth, families are given the opportunity to become more involved throughout the process. Parents can choose to view the surgical site at their comfort level so that they can see their baby being born, and the baby can be placed directly onto the mother’s chest for immediate skin to skin. This initial skin to skin contact supports bonding between the infant and mother and also encourages your baby’s inherent breastfeeding instincts.

Other small adjustments that can be made are having monitoring devices and and IV fluids primarily on the non dominant hand, opting for delayed cord clamping, initiating breastfeeding while the procedure is being completed, and limiting “shop talk” among the staff in the room.

Not advocating, adapting.

While the birth community actively encourages comfort measures and preventative strategies to reduce cesarean birth rates, the gentle cesarean process is striving to improve this experience exponentially for parents and babies.

Communication is key.

While creating your birth plan, communication is important every step of the way. Even if a vaginal birth is what you’re planning, making arrangements for a gentle cesarean if necessary is an important conversation. Talk to your care provider, midwives and surgical staff ahead of time to get on the same page with your expectations and requests if your child’s birth proceeds as a cesarean.

Don’t be nervous to talk about your cesarean options throughout your pregnancy. Going into labor with a birth plan that reflects your family’s priorities and preferences will keep you feeling confident and empowered to take control of your birth experience. Having a plan benefits a vaginal and cesarean birth from start to finish.

A comfortable and personal birth is your right.

For whatever reason, if cesarean birth is being discussed, a gentle or family centered cesarean experience may be an option to discuss with your medical team. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to advocate for what is important to you.