The C-section rate in the United States is over 30%, so there is a very good chance that a woman will end up with a surgical birth whether she planned to or not. It can be hard for a woman who hoped for a vaginal delivery to have to deal with a C-section, but the good news is that trends are changing.
Though C-sections are usually not a woman's first choice due to the risks and longer recovery, changes in the way C-sections are approached are causing many women to rejoice!
For years women felt fairly helpless when it came to surgical birth. They felt they had little control and did not get to fully engage or participate in the process of bringing their child into the world. That is changing. Because of a heightened awareness of how important it is to bond with a child right after delivery, establish good breastfeeding as soon as possible, and feel connected to the birthing experience, C-section procedures are receiving a second look.
While the goal in the United States for many healthcare practitioners is to reduce the number of C-sections performed, there are times they cannot be avoided. Instead of having moms feel they missed out on every possible benefit of a regular delivery, many doctors are finding ways to incorporate those benefits into C-section deliveries.
The result is a calmer, less sterile experience where mom feels empowered. There are a few things to know about this up-and-coming trend, and some that can't be ignored!
14 Mom Doesn't Have To Plan Her C-Section Early
One major problem many women have with scheduling a C-section is that they are often scheduled before the due date. Even though doctors are encouraged not to induce or perform a C-section until at least the 39 week mark so babies' lungs can develop, many are still prone to schedule surgical deliveries before the 40 week mark.
There are reasons a doctor may want to schedule a C-section, such as a child in a breech position or concerns about a baby's measurements, but that doesn't mean mom shouldn't be allowed to carry as long as she safely can. In fact, children may flip from undesirable positions even late in pregnancy, helping mom avoid a C-section altogether.
Even if one is still required, allowing mom's body to signal when it's ready helps ensure the baby has all the benefits of baking long enough.
13 Don't Ignore The Benefits Of Labor
Not only does this option help baby develop longer and give mom a longer amount of time to come to terms with a possible C-section delivery, but it also has added benefits for the baby. Women who labor before a C-section, even if they end up having their child via C-section, have children with less risks of asthma, diabetes, and obesity in the future.
Researchers were fairly shocked to find this out. In the past, the thinking leaned towards planned C-sections being a better option since they were controlled and scheduled. The risk of infection for mom was also thought to be higher if she labored first, and though that may still be a consideration, the benefits to the child are obvious.
The belief is that the baby may have the benefit of exposure to mom's bacteria during labor, and that is known to boost immunity. So mom doesn't need to stress about scheduling a C-section in most circumstances; she can ride it out and see what happens.
12 Create Ambience In The Operating Room
One of the hardest parts for many women about having a C-section is the OR experience. Operating rooms are cold, sterile, and often much more intimidating than the comfortable birthing rooms. Many moms associate operating rooms with illness, and since being with child is not an illness, it's hard to reconcile being in an operating room when mom meets her child.
There are certain things that can't be changed. The big, blaring spotlight must be there so doctors can see properly when cutting into mom. The room is going to be cold, and mom is going to see all kinds of medical tools when she walks in.
However, sound can change the atmosphere in a room. Mom needs to think about what she wants to hear, what sounds transport and calm her, and then have those in her operating room. It may be calming music or a favorite album playing in the background.
Mom may request that doctors and nurses keep it quiet during the delivery so she can focus without the chatter. Whatever makes mom more comfortable, she should ask for it.
11 Don't Ignore Staying Close
Another major concern for mom may be that after she creates a nice space for her child to be born in the operating room, her baby won't actually be in the room with her very long. It's common for mom to see her child after he is born via C-section but then be separated from him while he is taken to the nursery or the recovery room.
Since mom still has to be sewn up, she will be left on the operating table, her arms empty and her heart likely broken.
To avoid being separated from her child, mom can simply ask her doctor. By placing the baby on mom's chest and covering him with warm towels, the child may be able to stay warm enough to stay in the operating room while mom is sewn up. That means he will stay in mom's arms, ride into recovery with her, and she will not have to spend a second away from her baby.
10 Ask For Less Drugs
Mom obviously wants and needs to have anesthesia during a C-section. Without it, a C-section would be unbearable, possibly fatal. However, moms often complain about the groggy feeling the spinal or epidural gives them, combined with the antibiotics and anti-nausea meds pumped into their veins. They don't like feeling groggy even days later when they are trying to bond with their child.
While mom must have anesthesia for the surgery, it's acceptable for her to ask to be weaned off pain medication sooner rather than later. Most nurses and doctors will keep mom on intravenous pain medication for the majority of her time in the hospital before sending her home with a prescription for more pain meds.
However, mom can ask to be taken off the medication earlier if she wants to be more aware and alert while trying to establish breastfeeding and bond with the baby.
9 Don't Ignore The Fact That Their Are Consequences To This Decision
While some moms may want to take this route, the pain of recovering from a C-section is real and can last for a while. A C-section is a major abdominal surgery where mom's muscles and tissues are cut open, her uterus is often removed from her body for a bit of time, and then she is stapled or sewn back up.
Everything in the affected area will hurt when the pain medication wears off, and the sooner mom stops taking pain medication, the more pain she can expect to be in.
The uterus will continue to contract after the surgery, and it will keep on while mom breastfeeds her baby. If the pain of contractions while nursing is too much for mom to bear and is going to interfere with her establishing a nursing relationship with her child, she may want to ask for a little help in the pain department. A tad of grogginess is survivable if it means mom can nurse longer.
8 Watch The Birth
Women who deliver vaginally sometimes have the opportunity to place their hand on their child's head as she comes out. It's an intimate moment, and one that moms who have C-sections don't have. While it isn't possible for mom to touch her baby in the sterile C-section environment, it is possible for her to watch her baby emerge from her body.
Mom can even be propped up and ask the doctor to use a clear drape so she doesn't miss a moment of her child's entrance. With a clear drape, mom will be able to see the exact moment her child leaves her body and takes that first breath.
This opportunity helps mom stay engaged even if she isn't actively pushing her child into the world. She will still be able to say she watched the entrance, the actual birth, and that means a lot to many moms.
7 This Isn't For Those With Weak Stomachs
While witnessing a child's entrance to the world is beautiful, it's also messy. In the case of a C-section it's also extremely bloody, and moms who don't do well with blood, gore, or watching their own stomachs be taken apart will probably not want to take part in this.
It's near impossible for mom to only see her baby if a clear sheet is used. Even if she doesn't look until her child is pulled out of her body, she will inevitably see the blood she lost during the surgery. It will be all around, visible, and those not comfortable with this kind of display may pass out when they see it.
It's better for mom to miss seeing that very first breath her child takes than it is for her to miss the next hour because she is unconscious. It's fine for mom to opt out of this modification.
6 Take The Slow Delivery Approach
During a typical C-section, the baby is pulled from the mother's body quickly and handed over to a nurse to start the process of cleaning, weighing, and checking baby's health. However, mom can ask for the delivery to be slower. As much as she may want to see her child, a slower delivery has benefits for her baby.
During a gentle C-section, the baby is pulled out slowly, with the head coming out of the incision, and then the body is pulled out slowly so the extra fluid from the lungs can come out on its own. This most closely mimics what happens during a vaginal delivery and can help a baby's breathing.
The amount of time it takes to do the process slowly is not so much that mom needs to worry about feeling like she is prolonging the procedure. The slow approach adds to the feeling that the C-section is more like labor in that it happens a bit more organically, even though the doctors are still guiding the baby out of the body.
5 Don't Ignore Doctor's Consent
If mom wants a gentle C-section, including a slow delivery during the surgery, she needs to talk to her doctor early on in the pregnancy. Even if mom is hoping for a natural delivery and has no reason to suspect she will need a C-section, she should still ask her OB how he or she feels about gentle C-sections.
While the gentle C-section trend is catching on, not every doctor will agree to perform them. Whether they are worried about the extra time they take or just too steeped in tradition, some doctors actually refuse to modify C-sections in any way at all, even if there are benefits for mom and baby.
Mom does not want to find out too late that she can't have the C-section she desires. If she doesn't deal with this issue early in pregnancy, she may have little say in how the C-section plays out if she does, in fact, need to have one.
4 Keep Arms Free
There is still an old habit of tying mom's arms down during a C-section, with both of them in what is called the Crucifixion position splayed out by her body. It seems barbaric, and mom may feel like she is about to be put through shock treatment as opposed to have a baby.
The reason that doctors do this is because of the extreme shaking all of the drugs can cause, as well as the possibility that mom will panic during the surgery and reach over the sheet, contaminating the sterile environment.
Fortunately, this isn't necessary, and mom can ask to have her arms left loose during the surgery. This enables her to hold her baby as soon as possible, and it also makes her feel less constrained during the birth of her child. The anesthesiologist and nurses can make sure mom doesn't get too shaky, and they can be near her arms to make sure they can stop her if she attempts to reach over the sheet.
3 Don't Forget To Ask For Help
Though mom may be free to hold her baby after he or she is born, she should still ask for help if she feels woozy. A gentle C-section is still a surgery, so all of the drugs and stress associated with a normal C-section apply. Mom may still feel shaky, a tad disconnected, and nauseous. If this is the case, mom should ask her partner to help hold her arms while she cuddles her child.
If the nurses put the IV in mom's non-dominant hand, she will have an easier time having skin-to-skin time with her child, but she may still fear not being able to hold the baby safely on her own. This is an unfortunate side effect of the medication, but it will pass. Mom just needs to make sure she asks for assistance while she is still not feeling like herself.
2 Immediate Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth has benefits that go much further than the day of delivery. Besides establishing a breastfeeding relationship early, those who establish an early nursing bond are more likely to breastfeed exclusively longer and breastfeed for a longer period of time.
Moms who have C-sections often feel they don't receive the benefit of early breastfeeding, and this causes many of them to have trouble nursing. Asking to be allowed to start breastfeeding in the OR as soon as it's safe gives mom a chance to have what doctors recommend for every mother. This early bond helps ensure that mom has every chance possible to nurse her child successfully.
Some doctors are excited about this idea, and others are not. It's important to ask the OB before beginning the process of nursing, and it will also likely be necessary for mom to have help holding her baby and getting him to latch. She will still be a bit woozy from the medication.
1 Don't Ignore That Emergencies Occur
C-section plans, like any birth plans, don't always work out like we hope. Though mom may have approval to receive a gentle C-section that will allow her child to stay with her the entire time, things can change quickly during any birth, especially a surgical one.
If the baby has a problem with fluid in the lungs or regulating body temperature or if some other anomaly occurs that wasn't expected, mom may find her child is whisked off to the nursery or NICU while she is still left in the OR. it's also possible for mom to need extra attention due to complications from the C-section, such as excessive bleeding. If this happens, her plan may go off course.
Mom should plan for the birth she wants but be prepared for things to change. It's okay to hope for the best, as long as mom understands not all things can be controlled.
Sources: Fit Pregnancy, Babycenter, Pregnant Chicken, WHO