What Do Gentle C-Sections Mean

In the world of obstetrics, ‘It’s a boy!’ echoes in the room as a dark blue towel wraps the newborn, birthed through a Gentle C-Section – a practice that promotes immediate skin-to-skin contact and lessens neonatal stress.

The nurse examines the infant briefly before hurriedly wrapping him in blankets and placing him in his mother’s arms. She kisses her newborn son on the forehead and places him on her breast for the first time, just as her birth plan had planned.

It’s the kind of picture-perfect birth scenario you see all the time, with one huge caveat:

This Is Happening in An Operating Room

Medical research has long shown that skin-to-skin contact and nursing are beneficial for newborns, but problems in the operating room can make these practices more challenging to implement.

A new type of C-section called a “natural” or “gentle” C-section, is gaining popularity, though. Learn about gentle C-sections and how to pick the right one for your family.

How Do You Perform a Gentle Cesarean Section?

A delicate C-section is a Cesarean section that follows the parents’ birth plan as closely as possible, allowing for things like skin-to-skin contact, rapid nursing, and as much involvement from the parents’ partners as is safe and feasible. Some expectant parents may invite witnesses to the birth, such as photographers or a doula. The “gentle” in this context refers to a subtle emulation of potential sensations associated with a vaginal birth.

While an article published in the British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2008 referred to gentle C-sections as “woman-centered,” a more modern term that better captures the trend would be “family-centered,” as it allows for more participation in the first family moments. A mild C-section allows parents to experience some of the benefits of natural childbirth, like being present for the birth, holding the baby soon after it is born, initiating nursing immediately away, and spending as much time as possible with their newborn.

A delicate C-section is the same procedure as any other C-section; the goal is to make the delivery process less invasive. “To be very clear, a gentle C-section is still surgery,” says David Garfinkel, M.D., an attending physician at Morristown Medical Center and senior partner at One to One FemaleCare in New Jersey. “I am not trying to be gentler as a surgeon.”

However, a mild C-section may require a different approach to some areas of postoperative care. “In a traditional C-section, the baby is quickly delivered and given to the pediatricians. In a gentle C-section, the baby’s head is delivered first, then the rest of the body is delivered slowly. This gives the baby’s lungs a squeeze to get rid of any extra fluid, and then the baby is placed on the mother’s chest, and breastfeeding begins,” says Dr. Kecia Gaither, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.O. The infant stays with the mother throughout the entire surgical operation, and there is no urgency to cut the cord.

In a delicate C-section, the obstetrician, anesthesiologist, and nurses all work together to create an atmosphere as close to the labor and delivery room as feasible throughout the surgical procedure.

Should You Think About Gentle Caesarean?

Doctors aren’t proposing gentle C-sections as a new birth “trend” to increase demand for the procedure. Instead, they are part of a larger trend among pregnancy care providers to prioritize the entire family’s well-being, not just the mother. A gentle C-section aims to combine the benefits of a vaginal birth with those of a C-section when it is the best option for the mother and/or the infant.

We aren’t trying to encourage more C-sections by giving women a more empathetic experience; rather, as a doctor, it’s my job to make sure women don’t feel like failures because they need one. He also notes that parents can be almost as involved in a delicate C-section as they could have been in a vaginal birth. I think it’s important for mothers to have as much say as they’d want during childbirth.

Baby health benefits from gentle C-sections include earlier skin-to-skin contact, which improves breastfeeding and cardiovascular health. This is typically done after vaginal births, but babies born via cesarean section must get the same benefits from skin-to-skin contact.

How to Prepare for a Cesarean Delivery

Like any other birth plan, a birth plan for a gentle C-section can include your wishes for:

  • Whom you may admit to the room.
  • Immediately start nursing if you’d like to do so.
  • If you are interested in a delayed cord clamp.
  • For the purpose of skin-to-skin contact with the newborn.
  • If you want to maximize the time the infant spends with you.
  • Music, lighting, and other comforts can be adjusted to suit individual tastes.
  • If you’d prefer to hold off on giving your newborn a bath.

A trained birth doula named Allie Sakowicz says that the most common requests she has seen in a gentle C-section birth plan are for skin-to-skin contact right after the baby is born and for breastfeeding to start in the operating room.

In addition, she says, parents often ask for things like a clear drape so they can watch the birth, music during surgery, and the placement of EKG monitors on the back and side.

Preparing for a Discreet Caesarean Section

Whether or not a cesarean section is in the cards, I think all expecting parents should at least ask their doctors about the option of a peaceful C-section. That way, in the case of an emergency C-section, your wishes will be on record. Having these discussions with your doctor weeks before you need a C-section is considerably more convenient than doing so in the hospital during your labor.

It’s ideal for bringing up the topic with the doctor right at the start of prenatal care when it’s easier to gauge the doctor’s comfort level with the idea and determine if the treatment is even possible.

Sakowicz further advises requesting a discussion with an anesthesiologist before giving birth. The anesthesiologist is in command of the operation room and has much more say over who is allowed in the delivery room than the obstetrician does.

The “gentle C-sections” procedures may become standard, so you may not even have to ask for one. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t hurt to double-check.

Patients are increasingly interested in gentle C-sections, and I’ve never had a patient decline the option.

Meaningful articles you might like: 5 Postpartum Pilates Movements You Can Perform at Home, Losing Weight due to Hyperemesis Gravidarum During Pregnancy, A Week-by-Week Timetable for C-Section Recovery