Today on the blog, I’d like to welcome Tricia from the Birth and Baby Academy. She has kindly written a post for my blog about achieving a gentle caesarean. Tricia Murray is a Fertility, Birth and Parenting Coach, EFT Therapist, Doula and Birth Trauma Specialist supporting mums and dads to enjoy birth and early parenting and feel confident and calm throughout. She is Founder of the Birth and Baby Academy (which has a Caesarean Birth preparation course), Edinburgh Birth and Baby and Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support.
Gentle Caesareans – what are they and how can you plan one in the NHS
Congratulations! Having a baby is such an exciting time but it can also be confusing to know what your options are about where to give birth, who to take and where to find support and prepare.
This is especially true with Caesareans where there is little information out there to help you to plan and prepare for your birth. Often Caesarean birth information is very limited in any birth antenatal classes or books – often tacked on to the back of a book, yet almost 30% of women in the UK have a caesarean.
One of the biggest things we need to change is how we refer to caesareans. C-section is how caesareans births are often referred to – a very cold and clinical term for something that is an important event in our lives.
Our bodies are still giving birth to a baby. It’s a hugely important event to us. As such we must feel that we have some control over the birth and are active decision makers in our births rather than a procedure that is done to us.
Gentle caesareans offer that. We can make decisions in unison with our care providers to achieve a birth that is better for mum and better for baby and a birth where we feel we’ve had an input.
What is a Gentle Caesarean Birth?
Sometimes referred to as a family centred caesarean – this for births which are still through the caesarean incision but normally have a number of specific elements such as:
- Environment controlled (ie lights dimmed as baby is born, limited noises etc)
- Slow delivery of the baby (baby walked out)
- Screens lowered at the time of delivery so you can see your baby being born
- Delayed cord clamping
- Immediate skin to skin (before any checks are done)
Why is this important?
We are increasingly aware of the importance of skin to skin immediately post birth for a number of reasons – such as it can increase success rates with breastfeeding, it can aid mum and baby bonding (which can reduce PND) and it can reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) in babies.
Some current practice in the NHS across the UK around caesareans doesn’t support immediate skin to skin. In some instances, Dads/Partners may be encouraged to do, but this is also limited.
Immediate skin to skin has been in the NICE Guidance since 2004, yet this is still not being supported within delivery rooms across the UK. It is, however, easily achievable.
What are the issues?
The issues are that (a) current procedures in the delivery rooms are not supportive of this and (b) many women don’t understand it’s an option or how to advocate for themselves to achieve it.
There are numerous reasons why women are told it’s not an option for them and are often disregarded when they enquire to it being an option for it. Women are told that babies need to be weighed first, that observations need to be done before skin to skin, that because of the wires and monitors it’s not possible and more. None of these are valid reasons for not supporting gentle caesareans.
Is there a time when it wouldn’t be possible?
Yes – if there is prematurity, an underlying health issue, there are medical concerns with mum or if baby has had any signs of fetal distress during labour (if applicable).
If mum is unwell, then Dad/Partner should always be able to do this.
How do you achieve it?
- Research Gentle/Natural Caesareans – here is a brilliant video to get you started – https://youtu.be/wdyzAuc3Ff8.
- Develop a birth plan going through all the various options
- Speak to your community midwife about your birth plan and ask for their input and support
- Discuss this with your birth partner so they know your wishes and know how to support you
- On the day, speak with the midwife who is responsible for your care. If they are unsupportive of your choices, ask for a different midwife (this is something that is within your rights to do and your birth partner can do by going to speak to the reception desk on the labour ward).
- As a last course of action, if your wishes are not being listened to, you can remove your consent to the caesarean until they are (obviously in an emergency you may not want to do this – but REAL emergencies are rare).
This is your birth and you can enjoy making it a special event for you.
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