Whether you are planning for your birth to be by caesarean, or whether you want to think about your options in case you decide to have a caesarean while you’re in labour, there are so many ways to make your caesarean birth your own.
Caesarean births can be positive, enjoyable births and planning ahead makes it more likely that you will give birth by caesarean feeling empowered and in control.
It is most likely that you will be awake for your caesarean, having had either an epidural anaesthetic or spinal block which will numb you from the waist down. You may still feel odd sensations, though. Some people describe having a caesarean as feeling like someone is washing up in their belly!
A caesarean birth is your birth, and you have plenty of options to consider.
Firstly, what do you want to hear during your birth? Operating theatres have music systems. You could have your own music playing, your favourite radio station, or nothing at all.
You might like the staff to just chat with you or each other. You could ask them to talk about what’s happening or you may prefer that they chat about something totally off topic, like where they’re going on holiday! Some women find this reassuring, because it shows that this way of giving birth is just an everyday occurrence rather than a scary procedure. For others, a respectful and reverent silence in the room feels better, honouring the miracle of the birth of a new life. The important thing is that you’re in control of this, so just ask for what’s right for you and don’t be afraid to say so if you change your mind.
A small piece of fabric, called a drape, will be placed vertically above your belly before the doctor starts the operation. As your baby is born, you might like to ask to have the drapes lowered so that you can see your baby emerging. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to see the actual incision (cut) as your bump will be in the way the whole time, but you’ll get to be one of the first people to see your newborn child as they are lifted from your belly. Don’t forget that someone in the room can take photos - this could be a wonderful snap to capture!
More and more doctors are letting babies birth themselves through the abdominal incision and this can be a great option provided, of course, the baby doesn’t need to be born very quickly. Babies use the same instincts as during a vaginal birth to push themselves forwards and out, which may make the process more comfortable for them, compared to the traditional method of pulling the baby out. This can take a few minutes longer than the conventional method of giving birth by caesarean, so you would need to feel ok about waiting for that extra time.
Just because a baby is born by caesarean doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on that precious blood in your placenta. Delaying cord clamping is possible in a caesarean birth. In theory, babies should be able to be resuscitated, if necessary, while still attached to the cord during a caesarean birth, although few doctors are confident in doing so. However, if you and your baby are doing well, then delaying the clamping of the cord is a very reasonable option. Even in a real emergency where the baby needs treatment very quickly, the doctor may be able to ‘milk’ the cord, which means sliding their hand from the mother’s body towards the baby, pushing cord blood back into the baby. The jury is still out over how effective this is but, until then, it may be a compromise that you wish to ask for.
Once your baby is born, provided you want and feel well enough to, you can hold your baby straight away, even while your abdomen is being closed. You can even hold your baby skin to skin, with a little preparation. You can put your hospital gown on back-to-front before you go into theatre, so that the opening is at the front. Then you or your partner can simply undo it after you have birthed your baby.
As part of the caesarean you will have little sticky tabs on your skin to monitor your heart - before you go into theatre, ask for these to be applied away from your chest (eg. on your back) so that they don’t get in the way of skin to skin contact. Many women are even able to start breastfeeding while still in theatre so, if this feels right for you, do make sure you’ve asked for these options as you get ready for your birth. If you plan for this but don’t feel like you want to hold your baby this way straight after birth, you can always change your mind – that’s fine.
It’s up to you whether your baby is wiped down and wrapped before being given to you. The hospital theatre can be quite cold, so staff will need to put a blanket over your baby if you’re holding them skin to skin. Your own body will help them to stay warm underneath the covers. If they wrap your baby up and you want them to be unwrapped, just say so. The midwives should be able to do the observations of your baby while you’re holding them, and they don’t need weighing or a vitamin K injection until later, if you choose for this to happen at all.
You might prefer that your baby is handed straight to your partner. Either way, you can discover your baby’s sex yourselves, if you don’t already know it. If you don’t want the doctor or midwife to announce your baby’s sex to you as they are being born be sure to just say so.
Having some help to give birth doesn’t take away from your rights to decide how your birth goes. There are many ways to make a caesarean birth your own, to really make it a positive experience and to have everyone around you recognize that you are giving birth and honour you as the creator of the miracle of new life. Many hospitals are open to supporting these options for your caesarean birth, and everything is up for discussion, so ask for what’s right for you! It’s your birth!