Cesareans can be peaceful & even enjoyable! Most trauma from C-Sections stems from feeling out of control. We had no idea what was going on and had to follow the whims and instructions of the medical personnel. Well, if you are planning a first or subsequent C-Section, here are things to know about how to make it a better experience. Before we go in-depth, make sure to download these birth plans. They are super simple, one page, big font, and even acknowledge the birth team! If you want a no-nonsense straight-forward birth plan, download these now>
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no added cost to you, I may receive compensation for products you purchase through links found on my blog. (Thank you, thank you!) This in no way affects the products I recommend (I only recommend the best)!*
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, so please consult your physician before attempting any of these suggestions. Use your best judgment. What worked for me may not work for you. Each body is different and unique. Do what you feel is best at your own risk. I am not liable for any consequences. I am a blogger. This is a blog meant to provide opinions, suggestions, experiences, and information. Not medical advice. I am human and make mistakes, so information may not be 100% complete or accurate. Thank you, and enjoy!*
How to Have a Family-Centered Cesarean (20 options to choose from)
You have a ton of options. Your OB and hospital might already do some of these by default. If they don’t, push to see what they’ll allow. Everything I lay out below has been done before. If some operating rooms allow these, why doesn’t yours? Check out the list and see what resonates with you. You might not be interested in watching the birth, or you might not care about them putting the baby on your chest immediately. That’s okay! This is your birth. Do what you wanna do.
Have more than one birthing partner
Did you know doulas, birth photographers, and even out-of-hospital midwives can accompany you in the OR? Babies commonly have to go into a separate room to be evaluated and weighed, which leaves Mom feeling a little abandoned and out of the loop. If you can push to have more than one birth partner, you can have someone stay with you while someone else follows Baby. My doula attended a Cesarean to accompany the parents. The hospital made an exception because the Father was dying of cancer and needed to be pushed in a wheelchair. She was able to attend & support them during this incredibly emotional time. If you are in a similar circumstance, or passionately feel like you need another support person, write the hospital a letter or send them an email. They might tell you it is up to the anesthesiologist. You can do some digging to find out which anesthesiologist is on duty the day of your C-Section, reach out to their office, and see if they will grant permission.
Dad being there for the spinal tap
This was huge for me. With my first, I was bawling my eyes out and shaking while a heavily-mascaraed (that’s all I could see behind the mask), nurse clenched my hands in her beautifully manicured ones. She was being very sweet but talked to me like I was a toddler. Plus, I did not know her. I would have much preferred my husband’s reassuring presence. With my second C-Section, my husband was able to hold me and be with me during the spinal.
No stomach acid stabilizers or anything you reacted poorly to before
It had been 24 hours that I hadn’t eaten while laboring before my first C-Section. So I was not given any kind of acid stabilizers. However, with my second, I had eaten chicken noodle soup right before going into the hospital. They put stomach acid stabilizer in my pre-surgery IV. It made me feel like my brain and eyeballs were being sucked into the black hole that was suddenly in my stomach. I couldn’t breathe, and felt like I was dying. What had been a slow and steady preparation for surgery became a frantic sprint to the OR.
When I got pregnant with my third, I found a lovely CNM. I told her about my pre-surgery experience, and she became determined to find out which medication it was. She pinpointed it and instructed me to list is as an allergy when checking into the hospital. Luckily, I didn’t have another C-Section, so I did not need to worry about it, but it is good to know for future reference.
If you reacted poorly to any of the medications before, during, or after surgery, try to figure out which one caused it and explore alternatives.
Arms free (no straps)
It boggles my mind that some hospitals will strap women’s arms down even during a routine C-Section. Unless you are convulsing, there is no reason to have your arms strapped down. Make sure to be clear that you will have your arms free for the duration of the operation.
Listen to music, ask for no one to talk about anything other than the birth at hand
Some operating rooms will allow your to play your personal playlist on the speakers or on your phone. If they don’t, you can ask to wear earbuds. It also makes a huge difference when everyone in the OR is keeping their conversations on the task at hand, not their holiday plans. You can politely request that the surgical team only talk about relevant topics, and as anyone who does not respect this to please be quiet.
Clear drape (mirror to actually see anything, ask OB questions, talk to them)
Did you know you can watch the birth? It’s true! Some hospitals will only go as far as a clear drape, while others will drop the drape completely! You will be in the supine position, so they will have a wheeled mirror you can look through to watch the birth. I was amazed how close the obstetricians were to me! With my first, I had the blue drape, so it felt like the OBs were operating on my toes. With the clear drap, the OBs were up close and personal! I asked questions about everything they were doing and kept a lively conversation throughout.
Careful, gentle handling (another good reason for clear drape)
Every time I hear about a mom being bounced around and slammed onto the table during surgery I get a pit in my stomach. Luckily, I never experienced this. My OBs simply pressed on the baby and they came out fairly easily from my perspective. It seems surgeons sometimes forget that although patients are numbed, our bodies still bruise and feel the effects of any rough handling. Your recovery will be much smoother if you make it clear you would like to be managed with gentleness and care.
Slow exit. Head first allowed to sit for a few seconds, then rest of body brought out.
A big thing to consider during a Cesarean is all the stress the baby is experiencing. Labor usually takes a long time while the baby squirms and inches their way to the outside world. This process allows their entire body to prepare for what is to come. During a Cesarean, the baby is whisked from their nice, cozy surroundings immediately into a freezing, stark bright operating room. This can cause quite the shock, and significantly decreased levels of Cortisol. According to the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, “Cortisol, a steroid, has three main functions. It causes the liver to produce sugar and causes break down of muscle and fat to create this sugar. Cortisol also helps the body regulate its response to stress. Lastly, cortisol decreases inflammation and decreases the immune system response.”
How does decreased cortisol affect your baby? Studies have shown that children born via Cesarean are more likely to have asthma, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disorder, immune system defects, leukemia, and tissue disorders. Many of these conditions have to do with inflammation and hyperactive immune systems. So one theory as to why children born via C-Section have more chronic illness is that they are exposed to dramatically reduced levels of cortisol, which can affect them later in life.
Reducing stress to baby seems to be a pretty significant for their overall well-being, so bringing them out gently and slowly can ease their passage into the world. Here is a beautiful photo showcasing this:
Allowing the head to rest on the abdomen simulates the gentle exit from the mother’s body, and allows the baby to begin slowly adjusting to the outside world.
Mother “catch” the baby
Some hospitals that lower the drape even allow the mother to reach down and pull her baby the rest of the way out! This helps simulate a vaginal birth, and allows the mother to be a very active participant in the birth. The baby would then be placed directly on the mother’s chest. Nurses can then evaluate the infant while they rest on their mother, or delay the evaluation completely.
Delayed cord clamping
Delayed cord clamping has been shown to have many benefits. Delaying the clamping for even 1-3 minutes has been shown to make a huge difference. One way you can do this is through handing the baby directly to the mother while leaving the cord intact. If the cord is not long enough, a doctor, nurse, or even the father can hold the baby wrapped in a warmed blanket.
Birth partner cut cord
You or your birth partner can be allowed to cut the umbilical cord.
Allow a few minutes of rest before delivering the placenta
Most surgeons remove the placenta immediately after the birth of the child either through cord traction or manual removal. Studies are beginning to show that spontaneous delivery of the placenta significantly reduces blood loss without increasing the operating time. Talk to your doctor about allowing 3-5 minutes for the placenta to begin detaching on its own. (Yet another reason to have a clear/lowered drape- to ensure they give your placenta time to deliver itself).
NO STAPLES only stitches or glue. Removable continuous stitch is best
I have a whole blog post about stitches vs staples. To sum it up: A removable subcutaneous continuous stitch is the best way to close the incision. Your OB uses stitches on every other layer of your body. Make sure they use stitches on the skin, too.
Unconsented surgical procedures
My lovely doula had an unconsented tummy tuck during her second Cesarean and she said her recovery was a million times worse than her first one. Her OB just routinely performed them. She said she felt like her insides had been scraped out.
Make sure your OB is not performing any undesired procedures. Talk to them about bladder flaps, tubal ligations, evaluation of abnormal uterine or ovarian growths, etc.
Immediate skin-to-skin with mom, partner, or even a nurse
If your baby has to go to a different room, see if they can be transported or held within the shirt of the baby’s father or even a nurse. The nurses kept assuring me during my 2nd Cesarean that my baby would receive immediate skin to skin by whatever means necessary, even if they had to put her in their scrubs. If you can have the baby placed on your chest as soon as possible, this is ideal, but any skin-to-skin is very beneficial.
Examine and suction baby on moms chest or at least in the OR or at least one parent always with baby
As discussed previously, the best place for Baby to land is on your chest. If that is not an option, see if they can have a heated basinet within the operating room. This is what my hospital used during my first C-Section. However during my second C-Section, they took my baby to a whole other room, so my husband went with her. Having a parent stay with the baby allows them to feel comfort. They know your voice and their fathers voice from their time in the womb, so hearing a familiar sound is soothing.
Breastfeed in the OR
As soon as you can, get that baby on your boob! Gut flora is significantly different between babies delivered vaginally vs Cesarean birth. This affects their long-term health. But, C-Section babies who are breastfed 6-9 months have almost the same microbiome as their vaginally delivered counterparts. The best way to establish a healthy milk supply is to breastfeed as soon and as often as you can.
Stay with baby in the recovery room
I can’t believe how many mothers chill in the recovery room by themselves! I always had my husband and my baby during that hour-long retreat. Make sure your baby does not leave your side. If they aren’t in the NICU or anything, there is no reason your baby shouldn’t be in the recovery room with you.
Friendly staff, or ask them to leave.
This is your time, your birth. Usually, labor & delivery nurses and staff are kind and compassionate. If they are not jiving with you, ask them to leave. They can be excused and replaced with a different nurse.
Talk to the anesthesiologist, nurses, and OBs the whole time
I can not stress this enough. I asked my anesthesiologist about every tinker and touch he made to my IV bag, asked my OB about everything he was doing & what stage we were in, and made sure my nurses kept me up to date on the whereabouts & condition of my baby. They are there to serve you. Let them know if anything is wrong or if you have any questions & they will gladly reply.
Now you are ready to have a gentle, family-centered Cesarean Birth!
You have 20 things to talk to your OB about! Delayed cord clamping, spontaneous delivery of the placenta, breastfeeding in the OR, and so much more!
Which one of these resonated with you? Which ones are you not too crazy about?
Send me an email or look me up online @bearfootmamablog. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok (my main TT profile is @yourvbacmom).
Make sure to get your birth plans! Print them out or have them on your phone so you can have them at your next prenatal appointment.
Best of luck with your empowered birth!