How do you feel about the idea of cesarean birth?
And what exactly is a family-centred cesarean? It’s an important topic to discuss my Hypnobirthing classes In Walthamstow. I think it’s vital that we talk about cesarean birth and how to prepare for it, whether you are planning one or not.
In the UK around a quarter of babies are born by cesarean. That’s 1 in 4 births. Does the number surprise you? Given that those odds are fairly high, it’s sensible to ask ‘what if’ I have a cesarean.
As a calm birth school instructor, I want to give couples the tools to have a positive birth, even when things don’t go to plan. So we discuss the family-centred cesarean.
Having a simple plan c with some wishes that continue to honor the birth of your baby, can go a long way toward making the experience a positive one. It takes into consideration your emotional wellbeing and the immediate needs of your baby in their first moments on planet earth.
There’s no one size fits all approach to the family-centred cesarean. You may have also heard it called the gentle or woman-centred cesarean. I like family-centered because it considers the needs of you, your partner and your baby.
Talk to your healthcare professionals about how you envision your c-section, just as you would if you were to have a vaginal delivery. Find out what can be safely accommodated given your particular circumstances
Techniques to stay calm
Breathe through it
Breathing techniques that you use to stay calm during labour are just as beneficial during a cesarean. Whether your cesarean is planned or not, it’s major abdominal surgery and going through it could be quite stressful and trigger the body’s fight-flight or fear response.
Breathing slowly and deeply can help to switch back into your body’s rest and digest response. Helping you to stay calm and composed. Breathing techniques are also useful for your birth partner if things get a bit stressful for them too.
Touch encourages the release of oxytocin and endorphins. These are two pivotal hormones when it comes to birth. By using positive touch, you can enhance your hormones as part of your family-centred care model. It might not be the most convenient time for a foot rub or a back massage so think about the hands/arms/head and shoulders
Phone a friend
Being a birth partner during any birth can be a bit stressful and perhaps even more so if you have an unplanned cesarean. Even if the circumstances are fairly routine, your partner might find this really tough, it’s likely they are going to be pouring all of their energy into comforting and reassuring you and they can feel helpless or out of control.
Encourage them to have someone they can trust on speed dial. Who can they call at a moments notice to offload, to support, to be there for them?
Essential oils can have a mood-enhancing effect. A simple way to incorporate this would be a cotton pad with a couple of drops close to your collarbone or ask your partner to have something close by.
Lavender is a classic oil to help you relax, as are Frankincense and roman chamomile, it depends what smell you respond to best.
Babies are born with a heightened sense of smell and are looking for the familiar smell of you when they are born so consider removing it in the moments before your baby arrives
You also might also want to consider the use of Hypnobirthing tracks, guided relaxations or meditation just before and during theatre
Requests during theatre
Music is the answer
Our hearing is such an evocative sense and can make us feel good in an instant. Listening to music you love can help with the release of dopamine, one of your happy hormones. Made a playlist for birth? You could make a polite request for them to play your music in theatre.
Lowering the screen
Instead of an opaque surgical curtain that blocks off your view, the one used in a family-centred cesarean is either transparent OR can be adjusted so you can watch baby emerging from the womb. Some couples choose to have the screen lowered just at the moment their baby is pulled from the tummy so that they can see the moment their baby enters the world.
Dimming the lights
Were you planning on low light for your plan A birth? You could request that the lights are dimmed for your family-centered cesarean. Of course, everyone still needs to see what they are doing so there are practicalities to consider here.
The gender reveal
If you have been waiting to discover your baby’s gender then it might be nice for your partner to be the one to share the exciting news with you rather than the surgeon. Make a polite request if that’s the case.
The golden hour
There’s likely to be a few things on your birth plan for those moments shortly after the birth and that’s no different in the family-centered cesarean.
It’s worth noting that when babies are born vaginally, their cardiovascular system is stimulated as they pass through the birth canal to help them arrive alert and ready. This journey also helps to expel amniotic fluid from the lungs. As this part of the process is missed out during abdominal birth this can mean that sometimes baby needs a bit of extra help breathing so your care providers will want to keep an extra eye on baby as they come out.
Your baby also benefits from being seeded with the healthy bacteria in your vagina. This helps to kickstart their immune system. Skin to skin contact and colostrum (early breast milk) also help to do this.
Things you may want to consider….
Skin to skin
Skin to skin contact as soon as possible. In some instances, this can be as soon as baby is gently pulled from the tummy. If you are in need of some additional aftercare than this can be with your partner in crime. Skin to skin comes with a whole host of benefits for you and baby, including baby’s immune system (see above) and also help you to bond with your baby
Establishing early breastfeeding
Are you keen to breastfeed your baby? If everything has been straightforward then there’s no reason you can’t start as soon as you are ready.
Sometimes it’s harder to establish breastfeeding after a cesarean and that can be for a number of reasons. Ask your midwife or hospital lactation consultant for advice and support with positioning. Skin to skin with baby as soon as you can also helps with this.
Delayed cord clamping.
This still can be practiced if you have a cesarean whether it is planned or not and is becoming very common practice at hospitals which recognise the benefits of delayed cord clamping. Do talk to your care providers about this, Including it in your plan c will give you an opportunity to discuss it.
Cesareans in the most part are unplanned in the UK. Often when the family feels informed, listened to and has their wishes respected then despite the challenge they look back on the cesarean birth as a positive experience.
If you feel a bit disappointed with your birth outcome then you might want to investigate working with a doula who can offer a rebirthing ceremony. You can recreate a birth closer to your original birth wishes and acts as a lovely bonding opportunity for a new family.
But what if the disappointment runs deeper than that? The reasons for birth trauma are complex. If you or your partner feel traumatised by your birth in any way or feel like it is impacting your mental health in any way. Please seek help from a qualified professional. There is lots of great information at the birth trauma association
If you have unanswered questions as to why you had an unplanned cesarean then do request a debrief with your hospital who can help you understand what happened on the day.
I hope that you found this blog useful, please feel free to share with anyone else who you think could benefit from reading it