Every birth is a unique and life-changing experience – it’s the moment you meet your child for the first time and, if this is your first, the moment you become a mum. And while we’re all pretty far up the learning curve when it comes to tailoring vaginal births to make the experience a deeply personal one, what about c-sections? Because if you choose to have your baby by caesarean, or if that choice is taken out of your hands due to an issue in your pregnancy or labour, you can increasingly play an active role to get the caesarean you want.
More and more women are asking for a very different kind of c-section, one in which every effort is made to make their birthing experience as positive as possible.
Here are 10 things to ask to get the C-section you want...
When you have a caesarean, you will need to have a catheter inserted – but there’s no need for the whole team to watch while this happens if you’d rather they didn’t. If you think it will help you to feel more comfortable, ask for everyone in the theatre to stand at your head while your catheter is inserted. These small details make such a difference for some mums-to-be.
2) A calm birth space
You’ll remember – in detail – the moment when your baby arrives in the world for the rest of your life. So, it’s okay to want the audio aspect of your memories to be pleasant. Maybe you’d prefer to limit chattering, or for the radio not to be on. If so, make clear in your birth plan that the atmosphere in your birth room matters to you. Ask for a quiet, calm space, which will allow you to focus and may also help you produce more of the hormone oxytocin, essential for bonding and breastfeeding.
3) Your own playlist
Most hospitals will be happy to play your choice of music during a planned c-section, but do ask what format it needs to be in. And this can really help to create the atmosphere you’d like your baby to be born into, whether that’s calm or celebratory. Or simply choose one song for your baby to be born to.
4) Running commentary
Only you know whether knowing exactly what’s going on or not knowing any of the gory details will make you feel comfortable and in control. Whichever it is, it’s ok to ask for it.
5) A good view
This is a bit of a Marmite suggestion – you’ll either love it or hate it! For some mums-to-be, the idea of watching surgery is out of the question, but many women report that seeing their child being born was an incredible moment that they will treasure forever. If you want to watch the birth, ask for your team to lower the screen and let you be part of the action.
6) A slow birth
Some surgeons will allow your baby to be born more slowly, letting your baby wriggle out of your uterus in her own time, which mimicks the way fluid would be squeezed from her lungs during a vaginal birth. Whether or not you can have this option will depend on the confidence and expertise of your obstetrician, but it’s worth asking if this is something you’d like.
7) A hands-on birth
In a Mother-Assisted Caesarean, you reach down and take your baby as she is born, and lift her up to you. It’s not widely available, but it’s worth asking if this is something you think you’d like to do.
8) Skin-to-skin cuddles
Getting your baby straight to you for the life-enhancing experience of skin-to-skin is something many mums-to-be put in their birth plans. Evidence shows it can help calm both you and your baby and help regulate her temperature. Ask for the IV line to be placed in your non-dominant hand to make it easier for you to hold and cuddle your baby, and the ECG dots to be placed on your back, so they don’t come between you and the best snuggle of your life.
9) Optimal cord clamping
NICE guidelines say that clinicians should wait between one and five minutes before clamping the cord, allowing iron-rich blood and stem cells to pass from the placenta to the baby. This is recommended no matter how your baby is born, unless her heart rate is lower than 60 beats per minute, and not getting faster. Optimal clamping may also encourage a calmer, slower transition from womb to world, giving your little one time to adjust to her new surroundings.
10) Boy or girl
If you don’t already know, then discovering whether your baby is a boy or a girl is a super-special moment during a c-section, made even more so if you or your partner peek and find out for yourselves.