Most pregnant women I’ve known, whether it’s their first baby or their fourth, have an almost primal urge to prepare for their child’s imminent arrival. For many, that means spending countless hours researching facts and stats online or fixing up the nursery. For some, though, pre-term labor or health complications prevent them from ever having the chance to indulge in the nesting phase. After having a child, I can tell you that all the training and reading in the world can’t really compare to the real deal. In fact, there’s really not much you can do besides remembering to breathe once the birthing process begins. That’s where natural c-sections come into play. What’s a natural c-section? Introduced by midwife Jenny Smith, a natural C attempts to recreate some of the aspects of a vaginal delivery like allowing the mother to be as involved as possible.
Though having a vaginal delivery is still the top birthing method in the U.S., c-sections are actually the most common surgical procedures performed in U.S, hospitals. So there’s about a one in three possibility your delivery will be a c-section. Due to preexisting health conditions, I knew well in advance that a vaginal birth was not going to be an option for me. One of the top concerns I had upon finding out I would need to have a planned caesarean section was that I’d be missing out on the organic experience of a vaginal delivery. I wanted to avoid the cold, clinical aspect of having an abdominal surgery and embrace a warm, nurturing alternative. Thankfully, I had the natural c-section option to turn to.
If you’re curious about what it’s like or are considering this procedure as well, here’s what you need to know:
1. You Can Set The Mood
One of the main principles behind the natural c-section is to make it more like a birth, not a surgery. Think: relaxed, warm, nurturing. So the first thing you’re going to want to do is make your environment as calm and soothing as possible. Most hospitals will even allow you to play your favorite music during the procedure.
I preferred to keep things quiet. I brought mementos from home, like my favorite socks and a fuzzy blanket, to keep me mellow and distract me from the clinical setting of the operating room. They kept me calm and kept my stress low.
2. You Can Come Prepared
I wanted to make sure that when the big moment came, I was unencumbered. Since I was trying to keep things feeling organic, I didn’t want my movement to be too restricted. Some super simple changes to how you are prepped for surgery can have a huge impact on your experience. Following experts advice, I asked the medical staff in advance to put the IV needle in my non-dominant arm, the oximeter on my foot, and the heart monitor leads on my sides. They were able to comply with everything and it really wasn’t even a big change to make.
The changes kept my arms and chest free to hold my baby immediately after birth.
3. We Did Things On My Terms: Slow And Steady
In a natural C, your OB-GYN delivers the baby slowly, they tip you up or drop the curtain so you see the moment your child comes out, and there’s a delay in clamping the cord. By “walking the baby out,” this not only simulates the pressure your baby would experience in a vaginal birth, but it helps aid in getting amniotic fluid out of their lungs.
Although my OB-GYN was totally on board for dropping the curtain, some unexpected complications prevented that from happening for me, but my partner was still able to see and capture it. Many c-section patients think they have to sacrifice the moment they get to see their child’s birth, but that’s not the case for most women (except in emergency situations like mine). They were still able to delay the cord-clamping, which simulates what would happen in a vaginal birth, and authorities believe there are long-term benefits to this too.
4. You’ll Get Plenty Of Snuggle Time
After your baby is born, your OB-GYN will pass him or her off to a nurse who’ll then place baby on your chest. Obviously both the doctor and the assisting medical staff will check the well-being of both you and baby, but most of this can be done while your child is on your chest. There are numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact, such as preventing heat loss in your newborn, promoting bonding, and even speeding up your recovery.
Unfortunately, the complications that prevented the curtain from being dropped also delayed when I was able to hold my son. But rest assured, situations like mine are rare. Barring any extreme circumstances, there should be no reason your baby can’t be placed on your chest.
5. So Fresh And So Clean?
The moments following your delivery are part of the natural c-section process, too. Make sure to tell your doctor that you don’t want your baby to be washed immediately. This was another thing that I had to specifically request, but there was actually an option for this on the paperwork I filled out. So, again, even though you will probably have to ask for this, it’s a super easy and simple change to make. I know, it might sound a little gross, but did you know the stuff babies are coated in right after being born is actually super functional? Yeah! That funky material is called Vernix Caseosa and studies show just how important this stuff is. It serves many purposes: it contains antimicrobials, regulates temperature, serves as a barrier between your baby’s skin and germs, and even can aid in wound healing. And, since that substance was formed inside you, it’s how your baby first smelled you.
In addition to being able to smell your breast milk, babies can recognize their mothers by scent. That’s why it’s also advised that you either go the unscented body wash route or are extremely consistent in what fragrances you put on your body. Your baby will form an intense bond not just to you, but to your smell as well. I found out in advance that the hospital I was going to be at did not provide any toiletries, so I packed my own unscented body wash. I also continued to use that same brand of unscented body wash to really make sure my son was having a consistent smell experience.
6. It’s Still Your Birth, So It’s Up To You
As awesome as it is to have the option of a natural c-section — especially if you were hoping for a vaginal delivery — it’s important to know that it’s not super common yet in the U.S. My OB-GYN had only ever heard of it during his time spent abroad. Perhaps that’s why he always felt compelled to remind me of the traditional practices. But by creating an open line of communication, putting my wishes in writing, and standing firm in my choices, we were able to proceed with this natural alternative.
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