A new birth trend has seen women requesting what’s become known as a gentle caesarean.
Giving birth via C-section is quite a common surgery in the UK (According to the NHS around one in every four to five pregnant women in the UK has a caesarean delivery). Despite this, many women who do welcome their baby via that method often report feeling disappointed with their birth experience.
There are many reasons women may have to give birth via caesarean, but often when mums-to-be are told this is the method they will need to deliver their baby they are left feeling sad or upset by the prospect. Others describe feelings of failure or missing out on an experience giving birth naturally might offer.
So how do we make what is fundamentally a surgical procedure less of a daunting prospect and more akin to the experience of a vaginal birth.
Step forward the gentle or family-centred caesarean. The procedure which is becoming more common in Australia is also becoming a more popular option in the UK. But what is it?
Overall the purpose of a gentle caesarean is to create a peaceful, calm atmosphere that closely mimics what happens during and immediately after a natural childbirth.
In a typical C-section, a raised curtain shields the mum from seeing what’s going on down below, which therefore prevents them from seeing their babies being born. The babies are often taken straight away, which prevents immediate mother/baby bonding.
During a gentle caesarean, on the other hand, either a clear curtain is used or immediately dropped, allowing the mum-to-be to view the procedure. And if requested immediate skin-to-skin contact is given with the baby being placed immediately on the mothers’ chest/in her arms, which can help with bonding and/or kickstart breastfeeding.
Gentle caesareans aren’t the only way for women to have a less sterile surgical birth experience. Earlier this year we reported on the trend for natural and maternally assisted C-sections, which both help mums feel more involved and connected during a surgical birth.
After the doctor makes an incision and brings out the baby’s head, a natural caesarean allows the baby to partly emerge from the womb by itself, rather than being quickly removed by doctors and taken away to be checked.
During a maternal-assisted caesarean the mum is able to reach down and gently lift their baby onto their chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact.
Patrick O’Brien, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says that providing there are no risks to mother or baby, the procedures could potentially be offered to mums-to-be.
“Providing both mother and baby are healthy, this decision should be made by the woman in consultation with her obstetrician or midwife,” Dr O’Brien explains. “The elements involved in a natural caesarean (ie. slow delivery of the baby into a calm environment, delayed clamping of the cord) are all in the skillset of all obstetricians and midwives and no special training is needed.”
Although gentle, natural or maternally-assisted C-sections aren’t that widely publicised in the UK right now, the hope is that in the future women will know that these options may be available. Which may help with women’s feelings of disappointment if they have to give birth via a caesarean.
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