6 Tips for a Gentle Cesarean: Practical Advice for Achieving the Birth You Want
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Facing a cesarean can be a very scary thing. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I had planned a natural birth. I didn’t read anything on cesareans. Why? Because I was not having one.
Well, after 36 hours of labor and a baby that was malpositioned, I was rushed in for an emergency c-section. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say, it was pretty traumatic.
With my second pregnancy, I planned for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I obsessed over every detail of my birth plan. A few days before my due date, I learned that my baby was an estimated 13(!) pounds. No way was I pushing out a thirteen pounder!! (It turns out he was 9 lbs 6 ounces, which goes to show you how estimates can be wrong.)
My c-section was scheduled for the day after my due date, which only gave me three days to research everything I could on repeat c-sections. I wrote a birth plan over the weekend and braced myself for another difficult experience.
Thankfully, my second birth was SO much better. Still, it wasn’t as perfect as I had hoped. When I got pregnant with my third (surprise!) baby, I knew I wanted to plan a “gentle” or “mother-friendly” c-section.
What is a mother-friendly / gentle cesarean?
A mother-friendly cesarean delivery (also known as a gentle cesarean) is a c-section that allows for better bonding and birth experience. It places YOU in the driver’s seat. As the mother, you are empowered to make birth decisions and prioritize things that are important to you.
Some common requests moms make during gentle cesareans are:
Clear drape to watch baby being born
Arms free (and not tied down) to touch and hold baby
Immediate skin-to-skin after baby is delivered
Assistance with breastfeeding in the operating room
Photographs allowed in the operating room
What are some things that are important to you? What would your ideal birth look like? In a gentle cesarean, you choose (within reason of course) how you’d like your birth to go,
Here are 6 Tips for achieving the gentle cesarean birth you want:
1. Choose a hospital with a patient-centered reputation.
You can have the best plan in the world, but if your hospital is not supportive of your choices, you will not have the birth you want. Do not be afraid to change providers during pregnancy in order to find a hospital or doctor that will be supportive. My recommendation is to find a hospital that has the “baby friendly” designation. You can find a list of baby-friendly hospitals here.
2. Choose your surgeon wisely.
I saw a midwife for my prenatal care, and she helped me choose an obstetrician she knew would be open to my desire for a mother-friendly cesarean. I met with him often during my pregnancy. He got to know me, and my desires for my birth. He respected my choices.
3. Write your birth plan early and review it at each appointment.
Aim to have your birth plan written by the start of your third trimester if possible. Print out copies and bring them to your appointments. Talk about your preferences with your doctor. Ask for their feedback. Feel free to make changes to your birth plan as you research new ideas.
4. Research, research, research!
You may think, “I already have a kid! I know everything there is to know!” Or, “My doctor will tell me if I need to know something!”
Nope. Your doctor will not tell you. He won’t even bring it up. If you want to know something, do the research. Look into pain medication, natural remedies, baby care – EVERYTHING! Every spare moment you have, Google your little
heart fingers out.
5. Prepare your birth partner.
Who will be with you during the surgery? Your significant other? Your mom? A friend? Make sure your birth partner is familiar with your birth plan and will back you up on your choices. Talk about why you have specified certain things in your birth plan. Have a discussion about how they will help you achieve your ideal birth.
6. Remind yourself to go with the flow.
Although you have written out the perfect birth plan, and you have it pictured crystal-clear in your mind just how you want your birth to be, remember that sometimes things happen.
Your water may break early. You may not be able to delay the cord clamping. This is surgery and issues do arise sometimes. Think about how you will feel if things don’t go exactly as planned. If you find yourself feeling depressed after your birth, be sure to seek support or talk to a counselor.
Are you planning a gentle cesarean? Click here to read my birth story, full of every little detail to help you know what to expect.
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