Choices in Planned Caesarean Births

One of the benefits of a planned caesarean is that there’s time to consider options, ask questions and make choices beforehand. 

Many hospitals are willing to take extra steps to make a caesarean birth more gentle and family friendly. The following is a list of practises that are being requested as part of a “Gentle Caesarean”. Yes I’m aware that the very nature of a caesarean and the postpartum recovery do not seem gentle to most people. However I appreciate that there are medical staff working hard to make the experience as positive, healthy and family-friendly as possible.  

  • Watching your baby being born. Clear surgical drapes, surgical drapes with a panel that can be lowered to a clear panel, or having the drapes lowered entirely.
  • Cord cutting. Most hospitals don’t allow anyone other than staff to cut the cord in the surgical field. But they can leave a longer cord and have the partner trim it – like a ceremonial cutting of the cord.
  • Skin-to-skin contact with the birthing parent, from the chest up.
  • Maternal heart monitors on their side or back, leaving the chest available for holding baby skin-to-skin.
  • Music of your choice – played on the sound system or your headphones.
  • Support through the entire procedure, from the moment of entering the O.R. until heading to the recovery room. Most hospitals allow one support person in the O.R. and recovery room. Some allow doulas to come in as well. 
  • Healthy baby stays with the parent(s); family stays together in O.R. and recovery room. In some hospitals babies born by caesarean are automatically taken to NICU or a medical nursery for observation.
  • Photos / videos – always bring your device. There’s often a nurse who is waiting for the baby to be born and will take some photos of the birth, the first time parents hold the baby, etc. There are many beautiful moments to celebrate at any birth, including caesareans.
  • Flora for the baby – vaginal seeding. You might ask for a GBS test a week before the surgery before going ahead with this. Note that this is still new enough that most medical staff will not participate. Plan to DIY.
  • Covid testing options – find out if this is something that will affect your birth. What happens if you take the test or don’t take the test?
  • Any cultural / spiritual aspects you might wish to include. I’ve seen an obstetrician lead a prayer before starting the surgery and have joined the surgical team in singing happy birthday to a newborn.
  • Obstetrician of your choice. Certainly a perk of scheduling your birth. 
  • Volume of monitoring machines – ask for the volume to be turned up or down if it’s reassuring for you, or not, to hear things like fetal heartbeat, maternal heart beat. 
  • Delayed cord clamping – up to 1 min is considered safe with caesareans. (I’ve heard of a hospital that keeps the placenta and baby attached after the placenta is removed – definitely not standard of care in most places. Never hurts to ask.)

In some facilities the things on this list may already be standard care. In others, requesting these things will provide an opportunity for staff to gain a new perspective. Patient safety is the primary concern. Some of these practices may be considered safe or not, possible or not, depending on patient health, the facility and/or the staff working in the O.R.

Speak with your doctor well ahead of time about the things that interest you from this list. 

If you get a sea of “no ways,” then ask why not. There could be valid reasons or it could be one unbending person. If it’s the latter then you might wish to explore working with another doctor or giving birth in a different facility, if that’s an option.