Reaching down to place her hands under her baby’s arms before gently lifting him out of her body and straight onto her chest, Sarah Toyer felt elated about the pivotal role she’d played in helping bring her son into the world.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Sarah, from Queensland, Australia had given birth naturally, for how else could she have pulled her own baby out of her body, but in fact she’d had a caesarean section. For Sarah is one of a rising number of mums-to-be who are forgoing the protective screen, scrubbing up with the surgical team and taking a more hands-on role during their caesarean births.
Maternal assisted caesarean sections are becoming increasingly popular, particularly for Australian and American women, who want to play a less-passive role in their c-section deliveries. While in conventional c-sections mothers can often feel excluded behind a surgical curtain, in 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.
For Sarah it was the desire to be more connected that drove her decision to have a maternal-assisted birth. Having delivered her other three children via c-section and feeling a little robbed of the involvement a natural birth may have provided, she decided that fourth time round it would be different.
Having read an article about maternal-assisted C-sections, she realised that this type of delivery would provide her with a way to be as involved as possible during the birth, as well as being able to enjoy skin-to-skin contact directly afterwards.
“It was important to me,” the mum-of-four told Babble. “Because I had never been able to push my baby out and experience a normal labour and birth and thought this would be the closest thing to a natural birth, which I knew I could never have.”
Sarah describes the experience as the most incredible thing she’s ever done and in a message posted to the Facebook page Facebook page Birth Without Fear urged other women to fight for the right to have the birth they want.
Maternal assisted caesareans aren’t the only way mums can feel more involved during a surgical birth, natural caesareans are also becoming a popular way for women to feel more connected.
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.
It can take up to four minutes for babies born by a natural caesarean before being placed on the mother’s chest.
Babies born by traditional C-section can sometimes suffer respiratory problems as they emerge from the womb so quickly that they struggle to adapt to breathing normal air. Some experts believe, natural caesareans reduce this risk and are more beneficial to the mother as she feels more involved and can experience skin-to-skin contact straight away, which can help with the bonding process. Other suggested advantages include more easily established breastfeeding and potentially calmer newborns.
Last year a clinical trial began at University College Hospital London to assess the benefits of natural caesareans, or skin-to-skin C-sections as they are also known. Dr 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 procedure 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.”
Speaking about both maternal assisted caesareans and natural caesareans Dr O’Brien says: “There is no proven benefits of natural caesarean section, however, it does provide the baby with a slower and calmer entry into the world, and most parents find it enhances their own experience of the birth. Maternal assisted caesareans may help women feel included in the birthing process.”
There are other potential advantages to these methods of birthing. “In both procedures, the baby is placed on the mother’s chest for early skin-to-skin contact and, all being well with mother and baby, he or she can remain there for the rest of the surgery. Early skin-to-skin contact may also assist with bonding.”
And what of the risks? “Most of the bleeding during a caesarean section is from the incision to the womb,” explains Dr O’Brien. “From the time the incision is made to when the clamps are placed on the incision to control bleeding after the birth, the womb is open for around two minutes. If the baby is delivered slowly, it could increase the risk of increased blood loss during the procedure.”
“Maternal assisted caesarean sections could also increase the risk of infection as it involves the woman reaching down and lifting the baby out of her open abdomen,” he continues. “Even if she scrubs her hands and puts on sterile gloves and a gown before she lies down at the start of the operation, it will be extremely difficult for her to keep her hands sterile until she reaches for the baby. This increases the risk of infection in the wound or womb; either of which can be serious.”
Dr O’Brien says that in the UK natural caesareans are becoming more popular but believes for the reasons above it is unlikely many British women will request a maternal assisted caesarean.
“Many women wish to have the screen (placed near the woman’s head so she can’t see what is happening) dropped a little so they can see the baby being lifted out, but prefer not to be able to see their incision,” he explains. “Some women request that the baby is delivered slowly, as described above. It is rare for a woman to request a maternal assisted caesarean section.”
Would you consider delivering your baby via natural or maternal assisted caesarean? Let us know @YahooStyleUK