Cesarean sections (or C-sections) are commonplace in childbirth today and sometimes are the only option available for families. It’s an effective option but one that doesn’t always deliver the “warm and fuzzies” or “aww moments” that natural childbirth does. After all, it is surgery. But physicians do want their C-section patients to have these same tender moments and the desire to improve the experience has ushered in a new approach called family-friendly C-sections.
A Kinder, Gentler C-Section
The goal of family-friendly C-sections is to mimic the natural childbirth experience as much as possible, which means allowing both the mother and father to have a more active role in the birth than in a typical C-section. Family-friendly C-sections are an option that may be scheduled ahead of time with your doctor, but are also available to moms who originally planned on a natural childbirth but find they need a cesarean section at the last minute for their health or the health of their baby. As long as your physician determines that both you and your baby are strong enough, a family-friendly C-section is an option open to everyone.
There are significant differences between regular cesarean-section births and family-friendly C-sections. In a typical C-section, your physician and nursing staff do everything. We take your baby out behind a sterile drape, cut the cord, show your baby to you and then clean them up. We get the baby to a warmer where they are weighed and cleaned and health checks are performed. Then we give your little one to your partner to hold.
With a family-friendly C-section, the idea is to get parents involved as much as possible. It is a surgery, so we must maintain a sterile environment, but both parents are able to take a more active role in this type of birth. If the mom wants to see the moment her baby is born, we can lower the curtain and help prop mom up a little. Clear drapes may also be available, which allow both parents to see the birth throughout the duration of the process if they’d like.We allow the dad to cut the cord, which is something that doesn’t happen with a regular C-section. Another huge difference is that with these C-sections, we do skin-to-skin contact with moms almost immediately, which we’re finding is an enormous benefit to both mom and baby.
Bonding Even with C-Sections
Having a more active role in the birth of your child promotes bonding. With family-friendly C-sections, partners are able to participate by cutting the cord – that role is important to new dads. Immediately afterwards, the baby is put directly onto mom’s chest. Skin-to-skin contact after birth has been shown to have tremendous benefits for both mom and baby in regards to bonding, breastfeeding, etc. This has been very commonplace after vaginal deliveries but hadn’t really been previously considered during C-sections. The move to immediate skin-to-skin contact after a cesarean section is a step that we’ve found to be incredibly beneficial to both mom and baby. Not only does it promote bonding between parent and child, but it also helps the baby make the transition from being in the womb and has significantly improved success with breastfeeding. What we’ve been hearing is that both our moms and dads get more satisfaction from family-friendly C-sections than regular C-sections.
There Are Caveats
While family-friendly C-sections are options for many people, there’re not right for all situations. For instance, they may not an option for pre-term or multiple births simply because there are so many factors that need to be addressed. In these cases, your medical team needs to be able to work quickly if the baby or mom needs extra attention.
Also with family-friendly C-sections, there’s a limit to how many people can be in the room at the time of delivery – usually one other person – to maintain a sterile environment, unlike a natural birth where mom can invite more family members in if she chooses.
Ultimately, the benefits of a family-friendly C-section are huge. If you know you’ll be having a cesarean-section birth, talk to your doctor to find out if family-friendly C-sections are an option.
Do you have questions about family-friendly C-sections? Leave a comment below!
Dr. Christina Frome is a board-certified OB/GYN at Kelsey-Seybold’s locations in The Woodlands and the Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center. Her medical interests include general obstetrics, minimally invasive gynecologic surgery including certification in the use of the DaVinci robot, and menopausal health.