Gentle C-Sections: The New Trend in Childbirth

About one in three American babies are born via C-section, some planned and scheduled, many not at all. C-sections are major abdominal surgery and moms who have them often talk about feeling disconnected from the birth and their babies, who may be whisked from the room soon after delivery. But as more moms express disappointment in these stark surgical births, a new trend is emerging: the family-centered, or gentle, C-section.

Gentle C-sections take the standard C-section and add some more human elements to make the delivery feel more like a natural birth, according to Elizabeth McGee, writing on the website Worry-free C-section. They’re designed with the family in mind, to make it as natural and celebratory as possible. It is the birth of a baby and not just a surgery, after all!

A gentle C-section might include any and all of these elements:

  • Soothing music playing in the room
  • Lowering or removing the drape that usually separates mom from the delivery, so she can see her baby being born. The medical staff could elevate her head, or place mirrors that allow the mom to see the birth.
  • Doctors might slow down the delivery and remove the baby more slowly from the uterus to help baby expel more fluid from the lungs. That’s something that naturally occurs during a vaginal delivery and helps prevent infant respiratory distress syndrome. They can also delay clamping the cord as is now common in vaginal births. This allow baby to receive the maximum amount of cord blood possible.
  • “Seeding” baby by swabbing the newborn with mom’s vaginal secretions, immediately after birth. This transfers potentially beneficial bacteria from the mom to the newborn, which researchers believe could have long-lasting effects on baby’s immune system.
  • Skin-on-skin contact after birth, something moms who have standard C-sections don’t experience. This is facilitated by repositioning mom’s EKG monitors on her side rather than her chest so they don’t get in the way.
  • IVs placed in the mom’s non-dominant hand, so she can hold her baby
  • Breastfeeding while still on the table
  • Allowing for the mom to have more than one support person in the room
  • Pain management choices for mom that allow her to breastfeed and remain more alert after the delivery

The goal of the gentle C-section should be to help every family have “a fulfilling and satisfying Cesarean birth experience,” says the blog Family Centered Cesarean. And that experience is felt beyond just the delivery. Enabling parents to have better birth experiences can help them bond with their babies and reduce the occurrence of postpartum depression, notes McGee.

Although the practice is growing in other countries, gentle C-sections are still fairly rare here, according to NPR. They involve changes in hospital procedure and research studies to support their benefits, both of which can take time.

If you would prefer a gentle C-section should you need a Cesarean, do your research. The Family Centered Cesarean blog recommends moms ask their doctors or midwives about gentle C-sections, to gauge what they know about them and if they are open to the practice. They also recommend checking with the hospital or birthing center, as their procedures might differ. Add your requests to your birth plan and review it with your medical provider to see what is possible.

If you had a C-section, what was your experience? Would you try to add elements of a gentle C-section if you could do it over?

I’m a married mom of two living in Seattle, WA. I have a seven-year-old little boy, a first grader! He’s a fairly reserved kid and all about Legos and building sets. I also have a little girl who turned three at the end of February. She’s a tiny thing but a big ham; we call her our clown. They’re a lot of work but also a ton of fun. I love to eat, cook, and run (in that order). But at the end of the day, give me a spot on the couch and a little bit of TV or a good book, I’m done!