Gentle Cesarean: How To Have A Gentle Birth

Having a cesarean birth can be scary, alienating, and sometimes traumatic. Cesarean birth accounts for almost one-third of American births currently.

Learning about gentle, or family-centered, cesareans can help normalize your surgical birth and make it feel more natural.

How I Came to Know Gentle Cesarean

When I was pregnant with my first child, I dreamt of the perfect birth that was medication and intervention-free. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible and only be in the hospital as long as necessary before I could settle in at home with my newborn.

Imagine my surprise when, at 41 weeks, I began a hospital induction that would last 42 hours of active labor. After 2 days and then 2 hours of pushing, I was told that a c-section was in my future. I was devastated.

I was wheeled back to the OR and had my arms tied down on either side of my body. As the doctors worked to get my baby out, I looked to my husband for security. The look on his face, I will never forget. He was scared and worried. I was too. We were not prepared for this and we were uninformed on what to expect.

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Luckily, my baby was born healthy and though he was feared to be in distress, he came out of it nicely and was born, quickly wrapped up, and placed in his daddy’s arms.

The doctors worked to close me as I laid there, unable to really see my baby and unable to touch him as my arms were still bound. It wasn’t until we were in the recovery room much later that I really got my first glimpse of him. 

This birth took place in 2014 and thankfully a lot of things have changed since then. A lot of facilities will no longer tie arms down during c-sections and moms are often offered immediate (or almost immediate) skin to skin with their babies even after cesareans. But there are still additional requests you can make to have a calm, serene, gentle birth for your baby.

What is a gentle cesarean birth?

A gentle cesarean birth is one that focuses on the family and the baby. This might seem obvious to us, but to doctors, they have one mission in a cesarean: Get the child out quickly and safely.

While the family’s experience does play a part in the birth, it is not their first concern. This is why it’s so important to be educated and informed when it comes to your delivery and birth options. Having a birth plan in place is important in any situation. Having a gentle c-section birth plan in place is crucial.

Why have a birth plan specific to c-sections?

When I was creating my first birth plan in 2014, I didn’t make mention of c-sections anywhere in it. Why? Because I was adamant that I wouldn’t need it. No one in my family that I knew of had c-sections. My sister even birthed TWINS vaginally. There was no way that I would need to consider the “what if” behind a c-section delivery.

As we all know by now, I was very wrong. I really hate the fact that if I would have done more research, I could have known that c-section is ALWAYS possible, and having a c-section birth plan in place doesn’t hurt you. It can only help.

Additionally, as gentle, family-centered c-sections are becoming more and more common, doing gentle cesarean research is going to prepare you in a certain way that you will be so happy to have if you need it!

How can I make my c-section special?

If you find yourself in a situation where you need a cesarean, chances are high that you will already be in active labor. Most c-sections are either scheduled repeat cesareans from mamas that have had a previous one OR urgent c-sections that are added on last minute.

Don’t wait until the last minute to decide what special requirements you have for your c-section. It’s very important to talk to your OB or midwife to explain what items you would like to have in the case of a cesarean.

Talk to them about what’s important to you and what kind of birth you are looking for. Your doctor should be able to provide you with a detailed description of what the hospital’s policies and procedures are surrounding a cesarean birth.

Additionally, your provider will also have the ability to request certain things for you. I had a lot of different items on my gentle c-section checklist with my other children and my hospital and provider were very happy to accommodate!

An example of things that can be requested and should be included in a birth plan for a gentle cesarean would be:

  • asking that everyone in the room introduce themselves before starting the procedure
  • a clear drape to see the baby being born
  • not having arms tied down
  • immediate skin to skin in the OR
  • allowing doulas to be allowed in the OR as an additional support person
  • low lighting
  • special music to be played
  • doctors/staff refrain from talking about anything that is not directly related to your child’s birth
  • A support person always with baby, even in the nursery if extra precautions/testing is necessary
  • Request delayed cord clamping
  • Request that baby is removed from the uterus slowly, mimicking vaginal birth
  • Requesting that you are the first one to announce your baby’s gender if you wanted to wait to find out
  • Ask that all routine newborn checks and procedures are delayed until after you are in your recovery room, skin to skin has been completed, etc.
  • Include if you will be breastfeeding baby – this will allow for more skin to skin in the OR and possibly even nursing baby in the OR

As you can see, there are a ton of different options when researching how you would like your cesarean birth to go. Additionally, if you are to have a scheduled cesarean due to breech presentation or other birth conditions that would make a vaginal birth unsafe for you or baby, ask your provider if there is any reason why you need to schedule that cesarean.

Many mamas wait until their body goes into labor on their own before getting a cesarean. Labor signals to the mama that the baby is done growing and ready to come out. If cesareans are performed too early, it could put the baby in unnecessary distress.

What are the benefits of a Gentle C-section?

Many hospitals and providers across the world have adopted gentle cesarean techniques as a standard of care in their ORs. Why? It’s undeniable that observing these techniques have a positive result in mother and baby outcomes.

Participating in a gentle c-section delivery allows the mother and support persons to be calm and excited about their child’s birth, instead of fearful or intimidated.

A baby who is birthed in low lit, quiet, gentle c-section is more likely to be more alert after birth and more engaged with mama.

Bonding between mother and baby is faster, easier, and better established. As a mama of two subsequent gentle cesarean sections, I wish I would have been educated enough to have my first cesarean this way!

Where Can I Go to Get More Information about Gentle Cesareans?

There are many wonderful resources that are free and can help you discover all of your options surrounding gentle c-sections as well as creating a gentle c-section birth plan. Some examples are: 

Evidence-Based Birth – This website is amazing for everything related to birth. If you have any questions or concerns, I highly recommend visiting this website for evidence/research-based facts on what is a concern and what is not in pregnancy and birth.

MotherLove – This is a wonderful resource for creating your gentle cesarean birth plan. 

KindredBravely – This is a link to a downloadable cesarean checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything!

These are only a small sampling of the great resources out there. I highly suggest also reaching out to local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) chapters for tips as the vast majority of these mamas are c-section mamas who have “been there, done that”.

Final Thoughts on Gentle C-section

I have had three very different c-section experiences in my life. My first was a traditional c-section protocol and I found it very traumatic and even scary.

My second was a scheduled, gentle, repeat cesarean which was very healing and different from my first. My third birth was a trial of labor/VBAC that ended in another urgent c-section.

However, because I had previously discussed my wishes and desires for what would happen if another c-section became necessary, I was able to have another gentle c-section with everything I requested.

My husband even got to cut my baby girl’s umbilical cord! 

Being prepared and being educated are the two greatest things you can do for yourself and they will completely change the way you view your birth, no matter how your baby is brought Earthside. You will remember how your child was born for the rest of your life. Make it count, Mama.

So, how was your birth experience like? Let me know!

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Gentle Cesarean: How To Have A More Gentle Birth

Emily is a wife, mama, friend, and blogger. She lives with her family in Nebraska and enjoys spending free time doing variety puzzles, watching Harry Potter movies, and sending her kids outside to play. She's the founder of the website The Crispy Family, where she writes about gentle parenting, family budgets, and easy DIY projects.