There’s no reason a C-section has to be just another surgical procedure
One-third of all births in the United States are done via Cesarean section. There are plenty of reasons why pregnant women might be advised to have a Caesarean. Most of them are for the safety of your baby or even your well-being.
No matter the reason for needing a C-section, over the years, many women who have had Caesareans have told me that they live with guilt because they didn’t feel like full participants in the birth of their child.
Many felt cheated because their baby was quickly removed from their body by their obstetrician and whisked off for examination and cleaning. Their ability to hold their infant and experience intimacy with their newborn was delayed. An experience enjoyed immediately by patients who have a vaginal delivery.
Sadly, for many women undergoing C-sections, the first glimpse they get of their child comes from their partner’s cell phone as their baby is being handed off to a stranger to be examined. I’ve heard from more than a few women who’ve undergone traditional Cesareans that their only recollection of childbirth was getting an epidural, then going into the operating room, and waking up in the recovery room.
Honestly, this makes me very sad every time I hear about it.
What is a traditional C-section?
During a traditional C-section, the mother is lying on an operating table with a dark solid drape across her chest blocking her view of the birth process. Sometimes this is for a good reason since some people are not comfortable watching the untidiness of OB/GYN surgery.
And under rare circumstances, moms must have general anesthesia for their C-section when we’re dealing with some potentially serious complications, which, of course, are my job to deal with and mitigate. But for most women undergoing a Cesarean, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be full participants in their delivery. And that is when a “gentle C-section” comes into play: a great advance in obstetrics.
Thankfully, more and more first-time (and even experienced) pregnant people are becoming aware of this option. I hope to raise awareness about the gentle C-section because it can be a truly wonderful experience for mothers.
What is a gentle C-section?
A gentle C-section (sometimes called a “natural Caesarean section,” a “family-centered Caesarean,” or a “skin-to-skin cesarean section”) replaces the traditional Caesarean delivery with a more patient-centered approach. By incorporating the best experience of a vaginal birth, namely the early bonding between mother and child, a gentle C-section transforms what has been up until now an impersonal surgical procedure.
My approach to the gentle C-section provides women undergoing a Caesarean delivery a greater sense of participation and intimacy during the birth of their baby. We achieve this in several seemingly small but oh-so-important ways.
How is a gentle C-section different than a traditional planned C-section?
The key difference is that a traditional, planned C-section is an impersonal surgical procedure focused primarily on safely removing your fetus from the womb and not much else. At the same time, a gentle C-section birth plan is a personalized approach that focuses on providing a more positive and participatory birth experience akin to a vaginal delivery while safely delivering your baby.
Steps my delivery team takes to improve your childbirth experience:
Our anesthesiologist places a clear drape between your chest and abdomen so that you can see everything that’s taking place during the delivery. We also create a less daunting environment by placing all monitoring equipment in locations where they are less likely to obstruct your view of the delivery (without compromising the safety of you and your child).
We try to minimize physical barriers between you and your newborn. For example, the blood pressure cuff is put on your non-dominant arm so you can more easily hold your baby. Your EKG leads are placed on your back instead of your chest so that nothing impedes full skin-to-skin contact between you and your infant during their first breastfeeding.
We minimize the trauma to the newborn by letting them enter the world more gradually and naturally.
We strive to pass the baby to you as quickly as possible for skin-to-skin contact and bonding. The first hours after birth – known as the “golden hours” – are especially critical for thermoregulation, reducing newborn stress levels, improving mother-newborn attachment and bonding, and encouraging breastfeeding, among many other benefits.
Besides, it is one of the most beautiful parts of birth and the golden hour only happens once in your baby’s lifetime!
A gentle C-section can be better for you and your baby
The simple truth is that gentle C-sections have many advantages over traditional C-sections. These include:
More maternal involvement
With our clear drape, you can watch your baby emerge into the world. We believe this provides a better birthing experience.
You can develop an immediate connection with your child and, if you were waiting to find out the sex during delivery, you can find out your baby’s sex yourself instead of being told by your partner or surgeon from the other side of the surgical drape.
Less stress on your baby
By taking a few minutes to expose your baby’s head before removing their trunk and limbs from your womb, we let the natural contractions of your uterus help your baby squeeze out fluid from their lungs – the same process that occurs when the baby travels down the birth canal. By helping them eliminate the fluid in their lungs, we reduce your infant’s risk of needing resuscitation or special care right away, and your baby enters the world more naturally.
Allowing your newborn to exit the uterus gradually into a peaceful, softly lit environment is less traumatic than being taken quickly out of the womb and into a brightly lit operating room. Sometimes we even turn the lights down.
There is less initial stress on your baby versus a vaginal delivery because they emerge from your uterus with the placenta intact and delivering oxygen as they attempt to take their first breaths. This also reduces your baby’s risk of needing resuscitation to start breathing.
Once your baby is out of the uterus, they can be placed onto your chest immediately; skin-to-skin bonding with your newborn can take place much sooner than with a traditional C-section.
The first hour after delivery is known as “the golden hour,” in which immediate skin-to-skin contact with the child on the mother’s chest forges deep emotional bonds that help the baby stabilize their heart rate and body temperature, breastfeed successfully, and thrive.
This is one of the most special parts of the gentle birth experience for me.
A better experience for you
A gentle C-section is also better for your health and psychological well-being. Your Cesarean birth is more emotionally satisfying, giving you better memories of the birth process, and the early bonding with your newborn decreases your risk of having postpartum depression. What’s more, a 2014 study showed that sticking with your newborn helps reduce perceived pain following childbirth.
A gentle C-section doesn’t require special equipment, cost more, or take much longer than a traditional C-section (perhaps only about 10-15 minutes longer – though we never look at the actual time and focus more on the experience and having a safe, complete surgery). Plus, the recovery process for the gentle Cesarean delivery is pretty much the same as the traditional C-section, if not better since you have just experienced a beautiful, unique delivery. The mother-infant bonding certainly helps with an easier recovery and improved experience.
How safe is a gentle C-section?
A gentle C-section is just as safe as a standard C-section procedure. A Dutch study found no difference in infection rates when comparing natural versus conventional Caesarean cases. Since we take meticulous, detailed steps, there is also a lower risk of surgery-related complications.
Infants born via gentle C-section were less apt to get infections or end up in the neonatal ICU.
Who is a good candidate for a gentle C-section?
The truth is that not every Caesarean patient is suitable for a gentle C-section. If you or your baby are in immediate danger, if your baby is coming prematurely or breach, or with threatening complications that require an emergency C-section, a gentle C-section is not suitable. However, even in the face of emergency cases, we try to incorporate as many of the gentle C-section techniques as are safe and feasible.
Also, not all hospitals allow gentle C-sections to be performed at their facilities. Fortunately, at all the hospitals I deliver at, I can provide gentle C-sections for my patients.
Luckily, many women are good candidates for a gentle C-section, and more and more women are choosing to have them. If you are interested in learning more about the process, I invite you to schedule an appointment with our office to address any questions or concerns you might have as you contemplate this option.
With a bit of advanced planning, your childbirth experience can be deeply satisfying and memorable. And we are excited to be part of your journey.
More about Dr. Rad
Perinatologist Dr. Rad and his world-class Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) obstetrics and gynecology team at Los Angeles Fetal and Maternal Care understand your High-Risk OB and infertility needs before, during, and after birth. We provide compassionate care and help you understand your pregnancy, answer questions, and provide emotional support to navigate your pregnancy safely.
Dr. Rad has undergone rigorous training with high honors at prestigious, renowned institutions such as the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, USC, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and UCSF Medical Center, as well as centers internationally in London, Austria, Israel, and Africa.
Call us at (844) 473-6100 or schedule your consultation online. We are currently accepting new patients.
We are conveniently located for patients throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area at locations in or near Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Culver City, Hollywood, Venice, Marina del Rey, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach, Irvine, and Downtown Los Angeles. We also offer in-home prenatal care and a fly-in program for out-of-town and international patients. Dr. Rad even travels to patients who need him throughout the U.S. and around the world.
If you can’t make it to Dr. Rad, he also offers virtual consultations worldwide.