A new trend is emerging; The Gentle Caesarean Birth. The idea is that a birth by caesarean can be calm, peaceful and that following the birth is similar to the experience a mother and baby would have following a vaginal delivery
Birth by caesarean is sometimes the only option. There are a multitude of reasons for this including a medical condition of the mother or the baby, the position of the baby (transverse) or the position of the placenta (placenta previa). Other situations when a caesarean birth occurs include the mother choosing an caesarean birth, difficulties during the birth or hospital policies.
As a Gentlebirth instructor I always recommend that couples discuss together what they would like to happen if a caesarean birth becomes necessary. A caesarean birth is so much more than an operation, it is the birth of a baby & it should be a joyous occasion and a positive & special experience for the mother, the baby and the birthing partner.
Things to consider for your caesarean birth:
- Anaesthetic: you can make an appointment to discuss the anaesthetic options available
- Sometimes mothers are offered drugs to help them relax during the birth but this would result in you not being ‘fully present’ if you think you need extra help relaxing you could listen to the tracks developed by Gentlebirth that are specific to caesarean birth
- Date of birth: NICE guidelines recommends that elective caesarean births should be carried out after 39weeks, babies born by caesarean after 39 weeks are less likely to have breathing difficulties.
- If your baby has to go to special care, do you want your partner to stay with you or go to special care with the baby.
- Are you considering vaginal swabbing?
- If having a planned caesarean birth ask your care provider about having IV syntocinon to encourage your own oxytocin release, without this your body doesn’t realise the baby has been born, even with skin to skin and immediate breastfeeding
- Chewing gum following your caesarean birth can help with bowel function
- Listening to a relaxing audio (such as tracks on the Gentlebirth app) for 15 minutes before the surgery begins have less complications and require less analgesia.
Tracy Donegan, midwife and founder of the Gentlebirth programme has repeatedly said ‘if you don’t ask for the birth you want, you will get the birth you are given’. This is especially true of caesarean birth, it’s an operation that is carried out several times daily and done in a very routine way for those performing it but for you it’s a huge deal, it’s the birth of your little baby, the one you have been dreaming of, the one you are excited (and perhaps a little nervous) of meeting. And the good news is, just like any other birth, you have options, you have decisions to make, you have control over what is going to happen, you can make your caesarean birth special …you just need to ask. The best way of asking (and getting) what you want for the birth of you baby, regardless of the way you give birth is by written birth preferences.
Birth preferences are extremely personal to each individual, and my list below is by no means exhaustive and I also do not mean to suggest that you need to include everything below to have a gentle, positive experience of caesarean birth. I have written these preferences to help you to start to think about what you might like for the birth of your baby, if in the event that your baby’s birth is via caesarean
- I would like the cannula to be placed in my non dominant hand
- If I have a finger pulse monitor please also place this on a finger on my non dominant hand
- Can the blood pressure cuff be removed to my leg after the operation
- Please place heart monitors on my back so as to leave my chest free for skin to skin
- I would like theatre to be as free from unnecessary conversation as possible, especially as our baby is born
- I would like to play my own music in theatre
- My partner is to remain with me where possible
- Please do not birth my baby until my birth partner is at my side
- I would like the screen lowered so that I can see my baby being born
- Please do not announce the gender of my baby
- I would like my baby to have delayed cord clamping
- Please deliver my baby onto my chest as soon as he is born for skin to skin
- Please delay any checks that are not immediately necessary (i.e. weighing the baby) until after the first breastfeed/bottle feed.
- I would like the vernix to be left on my baby’s skin
- If it is necessary to do some immediate checks please where necessary check by baby over whilst we are enjoying skin to skin
- If I cannot have skin to skin for any reason I would like my birth partner to have skin to skin with our baby
- I would like my birth partner to take a video and or photographs during the birth and immediately afterwards
- I would very much like to have my baby in recovery with me so that we can continue skin to skin and establish feeding.
- If for some reason I am separated from my baby, please do not give my baby formula or a soother without seeking my prior consent or the consent of my birth partner
Claire Haugh, Kildare had her first baby by emergency caesarean and due to this decided in consultation with her consultant to have elective caesarean births when pregnant with her second and third babies. When talking to me about her experience of elective caesarean birth she said ‘I had a voice’ in regards to how the birth went and ‘it was a healing experience for me’ she added ‘ it was the little things that made all the difference; immediate skin to skin and being able to have and feed my baby in recovery’.