For women who want a natural childbirth, it can be disheartening—and even traumatic—to end up having a cesarean section.

Though the can undoubtedly be life-saving, c-sections inherently come with some negatives—a longer hospital stay, weeks of recovery time, and lifting and driving restrictions.

And emergency cesareans often come with added emotional trauma and increased rates of postpartum depression and anxiety. A cesarean mama might feel that her birth experience didn’t measure up to what it was “supposed” to be, to what her friends experienced, or to what she heard about in the media.

And in some cases, mama might not meet her newborn, let alone breastfeed him or her, until hours later.

But a Cesarean Doesn’t Have to Be a Traumatic Experience…

You can make your surgical birth experience almost everything you dreamed of when you planned a natural birth.

It’s called Gentle Caesarean.

A gentle cesarean can be part of your birth plan if you know you’ll need a c-section, or it can be part of a back-up plan if your intended natural birth and/or VBAC fails.

What is a “Gentle Cesarean”?

A gentle cesarean (sometimes called a family-centered birth) includes many features, but its overall purpose is to invoke a peaceful, calm atmosphere that closely mimics what happens during and immediately after a natural childbirth.

The best part about a gentle cesarean is that you can pick and choose which aspects will create your ideal birth atmosphere.

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See How

How to Incorporate a Gentle Cesarean Into Your Birth plan

  • Mama should request an epidural or spinal block; general anesthesia should be avoided at all costs, barring any emergencies
  • Mamas should request that anesthesiologists do not automatically give her extra drugs to relax, so that she can be fully present for the experience
  • If mama cannot be conscious, father should be allowed to hold baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth, barring any medical complications with baby
  • Mama can ask for monitoring devices to be placed in unobtrusive areas that don’t infringe her ability to see, hold or breastfeed baby.
  • Mama can watch baby lifted from her belly through a clear drape; if this is makes you squeamish, the drape can be lowered and baby can be lifted above it
  • Mama’s gown can be lowered and baby can be placed on mama’s chest while mama is being sutured. To facilitate this, mama must ask that her arms are not strapped down
  • Baby can breastfeed immediately while in the operating room
  • Parents can request cord clamp/cut delay until it stops pulsing
  • Parents can request that the placenta be saved and/or frozen until discharge from the hospital
  • Music of the parent’s choice can play in the operating room
  • Doctors and nurses are asked to refrain from “shop talk” or their weekend plans
  • Ask your doctor for a vaginal swab. When a baby goes through the birth canal during a vaginal birth, he or she is exposed to a plethora of microbes that help build a healthy microbiome. With a gentle caesarean, your doctor or midwife can collect a vaginal swab and wipe it on your baby’s skin and in his or her mouth. Another option is to take a swab of your vagina and wipe it on your nipples before baby breastfeeds.
  • Baby can be held by mama while wheeled into recovery, and continue to bond with parents there
  • Any and all usual post-birth procedures such as cleaning the baby and weighing the baby are delayed until parents are ready
  • A doula, grandparent, or friend are permitted to photograph or videotape the birth so that parents can concentrate on bonding

Add these requests to your birth plan!

Want to create a birth plan the nurses will actually pay attention to?

Four Steps to Prepare a Gentle Cesarean

1. Implement your birth plan

Include your wishes for a gentle cesarean, even if you are planning a natural childbirth, in your birth plan, and keep several copies of it handy—in your hospital bag, your car’s glove compartment, and your purse. Everyone involved in your birth (obstetrician, midwife, doula, neonatologist, pediatrician, anesthesiologist, and operating room nurses) should also have a copy and be willing to abide by it.

2. Find a doctor open to gentle c-sections

Find a doctor who is open to the idea and familiar with the concept of a gentle cesarean. If you are facing a doctor on-call with whom you are not familiar, make sure you have an advocate with you who is willing to voice any concerns you may have. It is well within your rights to take the extra time prior to surgery (barring any emergencies) to put in place a birth team who is willing to make this work for you.

3. Read up beforehand

Read up on your hospital’s policies and procedures beforehand, so that you are aware of any obstacles that may get in the way of your gentle cesarean. Hospitals sometimes have regulations in place that are different than your doctor’s practices, and hospital rules override even your doctor’s wishes.

4. Remember, this is your birth experience!

Remember, this might just be another day for them, but this is YOUR birth experience—something that you will remember and reflect upon for the rest of your life. Make your wishes known! This is not the time to be shy.

A gentle cesarean is the best way to get through a surgical birth with compassion, peace, and grace, and it is often extremely healing for mamas who have been through a previous traumatic surgical birth.

How About You?

If you had to have a cesarean, did you take any specific steps to make it a gentle one? Share with us in the comments below!