The gentle c-section: What it is and how moms, babies and families benefit
By Steven Tew
Nov 11, 2015
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
Traditionally, after a c-section, all aspects of family bonding following the delivery are forfeited in order to ensure all is well with the baby, which can leave the mom feeling empty, emotionally overwhelmed, and alone. In the last few years, however, clinicians and hospitals have worked to make all births — including c-sections — a family affair and a time where that essential skin-to-skin bonding can take place.
The family centered c-section or “gentle c-section” enables the mom and dad to be part of the birthing experience, despite the fact that it takes place in the operating room. Blue surgical drapes are still set up to provide a sterile environment, but parents can ask for a clear drape just before the baby emerges so they can watch him or her being born.
After the baby comes out, clinicians focus on providing skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby, which is routine for vaginal deliveries, but harder to accomplish while moms are attached to various machines. In order to make it possible, the EKG electrodes are placed more toward her back and side to leave room for the baby on her chest.
For Julie Christenson, RN, a nurse in the labor and delivery unit at Alta View Hospital, allowing the families to stay together regardless of the type of birth is “the way it’s supposed to be.” She says being part of a gentle c-section for the first time was an amazing experience.
“The tears started to roll out of the mom’s eyes, because she hadn’t been able to experience that before on previous c-sections,” said Julie. “Her baby and the dad had been whisked away and the family was separated, but they’re supposed to be together. This time around the mom was so grateful to have that experience and to be able to hold her baby close to her.”
Julie described how for a long time clinicians thought there were so many things we needed to do right after birth. There were shots, general check ups, apgar scores, and more, but in recent years, providers have focused more on family-centered care. And as they’ve shifted over, they’ve noticed how rewarding it’s been for families as well as for nurses.
“Regardless of the type of birth, being an active participant in the birth of your baby is essential,” she said. “Skin-to-skin contact is for moms and dads, and studies have shown it helps the infant’s heart rates stabilize, respiratory rates stabilize, and body temperature increase. All these critical things we thought we needed to do can wait a little while, so that very first contact can happen.”