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Whether you’re scheduled for a C-section by choice or due to medical necessity, there are things you can do to have the birth experience possible.

The “gentle” or “family-centered” cesarean can help increase initial bonding, increase skin-to-skin contact, make breastfeeding easier, increase early milk production, and reduce the chances of postpartum depression.

You have time now to sit down with your midwife or doctor and talk through what to expect and which variables you can make choices about.So what is a “gentle” or “family-centered” cesarean? Introduced in Boston in 2017 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the family-centered or gentle cesarean (as it is known there) is beginning to emerge in the US. In this type of cesarean birth, there is a “reduced emphasis on traditional surgical rituals and increased emphasis on facilitating the early interaction of the birthing parent and family with their baby,” in the words of two Brigham and Women’s Hospital doctors. The surgical drape is lowered and the birthing parent’s head is raised just enough to see the baby’s head emerging from her belly, so that she can witness the birth of her baby.The process is slightly slower than a typical cesarean birth. The OB waits a few moments after the baby’s head is out and then very slowly eases the body out of the surgical incision. This allows the baby to start to breathe on it’s own, while it receives some of the compression from the incision that it would normally receive while emerging from the vagina. The OB continues to slowly deliver the baby and, as the body fully emerges, the birthing parent can watch her baby be born.Then, if all is fine with the baby, the baby is placed in skin-to-skin contact with the birthing parent. Don’t believe this is possible? Watch the OBs and hospital staff who are performing these types of C-sections here and here.

What are the benefits of a gentle cesarean?Early skin-to-skin contact is beneficial in so many ways. Research presented by Lamaze International shows that skin-to-skin makes breastfeeding easier, enhances bonding, and helps your baby stay warm and cry less. If everything is fine with you baby, this is a great option.Watching the moment of birth is another big benefit of the gentle cesarean. In Shannon Bell’s blog post about her gentle cesarean, she cites being “able to see out son in the first seconds of his life” as the first of many things that gave her a “much more fulfilling birth experience.” Clear surgical drapes or lowering of the drapes as the baby emerges allows parents to experience this special moment. Note: You will not be watching the incision or surgery, just the amazing emergence of your baby.

A few things to consider:

  • Often the birthing parent needs assistance from someone to hold the baby on her chest post- cesarean. Dad, partner, doula, or midwife can do this.
  • If baby is not well enough for skin-to-skin right away, do it whenever you get reunited.
  • Certain pre-existing conditions would make a gentle cesarean inappropriate. Your initial talk with your care provider will help determine if this type of cesarean is safe and right for you.

Some tips to prepare for a safe and satisfying cesarean birth:

  • Meet with your care provider now to find out how they preform C-sections and what to expect.
  • Ask your doctor about a gentle, family-centered cesarean.
  • Take a Cesarean Preparation Class.
  • Take a hospital tour to see the operating room and recovery room ahead of time.
  • Plan for postpartum help from family, friends, or a doula.

Jada Shapiro is the Founder of boober and Birth Day Presence