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What Is a Gentle C-Section?

What Exactly Is a Gentle C-Section, and Should You Want One?

Not much has changed in childbirth over the past 50 years, except for the growing C-section rate in this country. With more than a third of all births coming via C-section, it was time for someone to look at the process and try to modernize it, making it less scary and more akin to the experience of vaginal birth. But just how do you make a sterile, surgical procedure more relaxing and natural?

Enter the "gentle" or "family-centered" C-section. The procedure, which is currently being used in 20 to 30 percent of the Cesarian births at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, was designed to create better connections between the mother and baby in the moments leading up to and immediately after birth.

So just what does it entail?

  • A clear drape: Rather than just using a solid drape to block the mother's view of the procedure, doctors use two drapes — one solid and one clear. Right before the delivery, the solid drape is dropped so the mother can see the baby being born.
  • Immediate skin-to-skin contact: Only one arm is strapped down during a gentle C-section, leaving the other arm free for a mother to hold her baby immediately after the birth. At the same time, the EKG leads are placed on the mother's sides, rather than her chest, so the baby can rest there.

According to women who've had both traditional and gentle C-sections, the experiences are worlds apart. "As a mom who had delivered by Cesarean, I never thought I would have the experience of actually watching my child as he was born," Rebecca Cook said. "This family-centered approach provided me with that opportunity."

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Doctors who've performed the procedures agree. "No one is trying to advocate for C-sections. We really don't want to increase the Cesarean rate; we just want to make it better for those who have to have it," said Dr. William Camann, the director of obstetric anesthesiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

So tell us: what do you think of the procedure?

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