How to Have a Beautiful Cesarean Birth

Nearly 1 out of 3 babies in the United States are born via Cesarean section. Either you, your relative, or your close friend has undergone this major surgery in order to bring a new baby in the world!

All births are special, but for most parents, a Cesarean section is not the initial plan or desire. The thought of undergoing such a big surgical procedure and all the risks, unfamiliar sights and sounds, and general unknowns can leave us feeling like our birth plans – and sense of control over our bodies – have just flown out the window.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

As you anticipate giving birth a little differently than you expected, you can still infuse some of your own thoughts, needs, and desires into your Cesarean birth experience. Here are some suggestions for creating a Cesarean birth plan that fits your unique needs.

  1. Create a Written Plan

Just like you would if you were expecting to go through the labor and delivery process, come up with a written list of your desires or expectations for your Cesarean birth. It doesn’t matter if you ultimately decide to give it to your doctor or not – the process of researching and solidifying your own knowledge and opinions is the most important part. Your doula can help give you some ideas if you don’t know where to start.

We recommend a single sheet, using graphics, colors, or bullet points to make your birth plan easy for hospital staff to read and understand at a glance. Be sure that your OB-GYN is supportive of your birth preferences. If any of the items listed prove to be impossible, they should fully explain to you exactly why that is in a kind and respectful manner.

2. Get a Walkthrough of the Process

Speak to a labor & delivery operation room nurse, perhaps on your hospital tour, to familiarize yourself with what to expect. This knowledge will help calm any nerves or anxiety you may be experiencing due to the unknowns. Find out where you will wait for your procedure, how long you will be in there, what to expect as far as anesthesia during and after birth, where you will have your initial recovery period, and any hospital policies regarding Cesarean births that you would need to be aware of.

3. Skin-to-Skin in the Operating Room

The benefits of immediate skin to skin contact with your baby are immense – not to mention scientifically proven many times over. Because of the importance of skin to skin contact, in many cases as long as you and the baby are okay you can hold your baby on your chest immediately, while your incision is being closed up. Because you will be lying flat and may be affected by anesthesia, your spouse/partner/support person should be ready to physically hold and steady the baby on your upper chest during this time.

4. Consider Watching the Birth

In standard practice, a drape is hung up over your abdomen, so that you can not see the surgical procedure happening. And this is usually a good thing, as nothing would make most people more squeamish than to watch surgery – on themselves! However, some hospitals are offering clear drapes, or to lower the drape just at the time of birth so you can see the baby emerge and come toward you. If this is something you may be interested in, inquire as to whether this is a possibility at your hospital.

5. Consider Hiring a Birth Photographer

Observing the Cesarean birth of your baby through another perspective can make for some of the most treasured keepsake memories of your life. A professional birth photographer knows how to shoot in hospital lighting, is respectful of hospital staff and policies, and knows how to capture all of the high emotions in the room with taste. If your hospital’s operating room does not allow birth photographers (find out beforehand), your partner should be prepared to take some photos with their phone.

6. Plan for a Positive Atmosphere

For many hospital staff, Cesarean birth can feel like a routine, as with any other surgery. As caring as they most certainly are, from your perspective this is the most important and momentous event of YOUR life. Here are some suggestions of things you might want to consider to make this a uniquely personal experience. Be sure to put these things on your birth plan and discuss their feasibility with your OB-GYN!

  • Bring your favorite calming essential oil blend to sniff
  • Request to listen to your own playlist during the procedure
  • Request for all procedures to be explained to you prior to being performed, unless emergency
  • Request that staff conversations during the birth be kept to a respectful minimum as you anticipate the most beautiful moment of your life
  • Have your placenta be shown and explained to you

A Cesarean birth may be very different from what you imagined, but it definitely doesn’t have to be a scary, impersonal, and rushed experience. With a great care team, communication, and an awareness of your personal preferences, you can enjoy a beautiful Cesarean birth experience with many positive memories to revisit later.