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10 Tips for a Family-Centered Cesarean Birth Plan

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When preparing for labor and delivery most moms imagine the typical vaginal delivery scenario.  We attend birthing class, create a birth plan, pack our hospital bags for a vaginal birth, and wait to go into labor. According to the Childbirth Connection, one in three mothers gives birth by cesarean section.  Planned or unplanned, a c-section is major surgery and the recovery length and process is completely different from a vaginal birth. 

In 2009, I delivered my first child via cesarean section after 18 hours of labor, 3 1/2 hours of pushing, an episiotomy, and 2 attempts at a vacuum assisted delivery.  To say my birth plan of a drug-free vaginal delivery fell apart is an understatement.  As a first time mom, I did nothing to prepare myself for the possibility of a cesarean section.  When the doctor told me that the only way my son could safely be delivered was by c-section I was shocked, scared, and very disappointed   Like any other new mom, I wanted to experience the rush of hearing my child’s first cry and then holding him skin-to-skin.  Instead, right after I heard my baby’s first cry he was taken to a warmer to be cleaned off, as I lay on a cold, sterile table with my arms strapped down.  There was nothing natural about my delivery.

After a successful VBAC with my second, while preparing my birth plan for baby number three I discovered the concept of a family-centered cesarean section.  Knowing a c-section could be part of my birth story I wanted to work with my medical team in creating a more natural birth experience.  With a little bit of reading and discussion with your doctor prior to going into labor, it can be part of yours, as well. 

I’ve compiled ten tips based on research and reading that I hope will help you, as well as me, to have a more family-centered cesarean, should the need arise. 

10 Tips for a Family-Centered Cesarean Birth Plan

  1. Inquire about bringing your own music into the operating room.  Many operating rooms have CD players.
  2. Prior to delivery, practice breathing and relaxation techniques that you can use during the procedure.
  3. Ask your doctor about hospital policies regarding taking photographs in the operating room. Many hospitals do not permit cameras or video cameras into the rooms, but this is something that is nice to know ahead of time.
  4. Ask to have at least one arm unrestrained during the procedure, so you have a free arm for skin-to-skin contact after delivery.
  5. Request that the surgery be performed slowly.  You may also want the doctors to explain the process, as it is happening.
  6. Request the screen to be lowered at the point of delivery, so you can watch your baby being born.
  7. Inquire about immediate skin-to-skin contact, as long as you and the baby are healthy.
  8. Question your doctor about the anti-nausea medications they use during the procedure.  Many of them are narcotics that cause amnesia or make you sleepy.  If possible, request non-drowsy, anti-nausea medications.
  9. Request to allow your baby to take his or her own first breaths prior to cord clamping.
  10. Request to allow you to nurse your baby and have him or her stay with you for as long as possible in the recovery room.

With preparation and an open discussion with your doctor, you can prepare yourself for a planned or unplanned cesarean section.  These more natural procedures can help make you feel more involved in the birthing process, as well as improving breastfeeding and bonding with your newborn.  

For more general information about c-sections check out the booklet What All Moms Should Know About Cesarean Sections.  

Did you have an unexpected C-section with any of your children? What was most surprising about that? What kind of birth plan do you have in place at this point, if this is your first child? Did you find this information helpful to add additional information to that plan? 

Image via Mindi Stavish

10 Tips for a Family-Centered Cesarean Birth Plan

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