Labor and delivery can really takes on a life of its own — even the best laid plans can be thrown off course due to pressing needs of a mother or child's health. Often, birth plans have to be suspended in order to accommodate whatever needs arise during the process. Whether you have a planned C-section, or are taken in for medical reasons, you might be worried and unfamiliar with what's to come. And, your partner might feel the same, especially when it comes to his participation. After all, can your partner cut the umbilical cord in a C-section?
According to Dr. Carla Ortique, OB-GYN at The Women's Specialists of Houston at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women, in most institutions the partner cannot cut the umbilical cord at the time of C-section. In a typical C-section, a closed curtain shields the sterile operating field. This is done to protect the mother's open incisions from contamination, which could lead to infection. "[Having a partner cut the cord] would break the sterility of the surgical field, and would increase the risk of infection for the mother," Ortique tells Romper. Recently, there's been a push to adopt "gentle" C-section practices from Europe, but this isn't yet the norm.
A C-section typically consists of a general routine, according to the Mayo Clinic. First, you'll be cleaned and prepared for surgery, and then given regional anasthesia to numb you from the waist down. When everything is good to go, your doctor will make an incision into your abdomen, and then uterus. From those incisions, your baby will be born. After your doctor cleans and suctions your little babe, the umbilical cord with be clamped and cut by the doctor as well.
"It is not recommended to have a partner cut the umbilical cord during a C-section because a C-section is a sterile operation," Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald, OB-GYN, tells Romper. Preparations have to be performed during said procedure to reduce the amount of bacteria that is introduced into the sterile field, McDonald notes. "If sterile procedure is broke, the risk of infection in the mother goes up dramatically," she continues.
But, practices could be changing.
"What I do with my patients," McDonald says, "is leave the umbilical cord on a little longer, so that the partner can cut it on the baby's end at the infant warmer, which is where they take the baby right after birth." This allows partners to still feel a part of the experience, and cut the cord, as in a vaginal delivery.
According to NPR, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston is helping pioneer a "gentle cesarean" — a method of surgical delivery that accounts for a mother's bonding experience at birth. Moms who elect this can view their baby's birth through a clear, plastic drape, and have their babies laid onto their chests immediately after delivery for a traditional skin-to-skin experience.
Many hospitals haven't caught onto this procedure yet, though, because the research is lacking as to its safety. "Without hard scientific data on outcomes and other concerns like infection control, many hospitals may be wary of changing their routines," notes NPR.
If your doctor and hospital are opening to changing their traditional C-section practices, your partner could very well be able to cut the umbilical cord during your baby's birth. Talk to your doctor beforehand and let them know what you're wanting during your birth experience. And, if you have a choice, look into hospital and practices early in pregnancy to ensure that their general processes match up with your philosophies.
Your baby's birth, regardless of how they are delivered or who cuts the cord, will be one of most special days of your life, but there is definitely no harm in asking for something specific you want during the process.
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