So, most of my clients don’t plan on having a C-section. And most of them don’t end up having one. (In fact, studies have shown that having a birth doula present can actually lower your chance of having a C-section.)
But the reality is that sometimes—for many different, sometimes absolutely lifesaving reasons—C-sections happen. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, around 27% of pregnant Canadians end up birthing their babies by C-section…even though the World Health Organization recommends a rate of around 10%. But that’s a different discussion for another day.
If you end up needing a Caesarean, know that it can be a beautiful and even gentle way for your baby to arrive.
I’ll admit I haven’t always spent much time discussing C-sections during prenatal meetings with clients planning on delivering vaginally. Now I encourage all my expecting parents to thoroughly inform themselves about what happens during a C-section, and all the options they might have…just in case. Knowing as much as possible about C-sections (and interventions such as Syntocinon, epidurals, etc.) DOESN’T make it more likely that you’ll have one. It just means that should the possibility of a C-section ever come up, either before or while you’re in labour, you’ll be prepared. So before you go into labour, take a little time to reflect on and communicate your wishes regarding C-sections to anyone who might be with you during your birth (e.g., your partner, your doula, your doctor or midwife).
Here are just a few ways to help make your birth experience as positive as possible, should you end up having a Caesarean. As with anything regarding your pregnancy and birth, take the suggestions that resonate with you, and leave the rest.
Learn what happens during a C-section.
And why caregivers might recommend one. BabyCenter does a good job of describing the basics of C-sections.
Watch a few videos of gentle C-sections.
Here’s a lovely one.
Note: This video includes footage of the actual incision.
Ask the medical team to lower the drape.
Some hospitals have begun offering clear drapes as an alternative to the coloured ones typically used to block the surgery from the parents’ view. If a clear drape isn’t an option, you can ask the surgical team to lower the coloured drape as your baby is born. You won’t be able to see the actual surgery (your belly will block the view), but you WILL be able to see your baby make his or her grand entrance.
Ask for skin-to-skin contact.
Post-C-section skin-to-skin is being encouraged more and more in Montreal hospitals. Ask that your baby be placed on your chest immediately, or as soon as you feel up to it. Should you not want baby placed on your chest right away (you may feel nauseated or short of breath, due to the anesthesia), remember that even brief cheek-to-cheek counts as skin-to-skin. If you have a partner, he or she can do some skin-to-skin snuggling with the baby.
If you’ve had a previous C-section, ask your surgeon to cut over your current scar.
So you don’t end up with multiple scars. This is generally protocol, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it.
Ask for delayed cord clamping.
If you wish. And for your partner (if applicable) to cut the cord.
Ask for a play-by-play of your C-section.
Some people (like me!) find it reassuring to be told exactly what’s going on during medical procedures. If you’re one of those people, ask if one of the OR staff can give you a running commentary of what’s happening as it happens during your Caesarean.
Or maybe you want a quiet or dimly lit OR.
Or music. Request it. If safety allows, the surgeon may be able to accommodate these wishes.
Request that the IV be inserted in your nondominant arm.
So it’s more comfortable to touch your baby after the birth.
Keep your birth doula around!
If you’ve hired a doula and a C-section seems imminent, don’t send her home. There are so many ways doulas support Caesarean births. She can help you work through the decision-making process and inform you of the options available to you. She can help empower you to advocate for yourself in a stressful setting during a stressful time. Even if hospital policy doesn’t allow her to join you during the surgery (but definitely ask, if you would like her to be there), it can be awhile before you’re taken to the operating room. During that time, your doula can provide you with some of the same hands-on comfort measures and all the emotional encouragement she’d be providing if you were birthing vaginally. If she can’t be with you in the OR, she’ll help transfer your belongings to the postpartum room and make the space as homey as possible for you and your baby. And of course, after the birth she’ll help you initiate breastfeeding and make sure you’re as comfortable and happy as you can be.