Gentle Cesarean Section – Largely a PR Campaign

Posted on: December 15, 2017 | Labor & Birth

In 2017 Good Morning America did a segment on Gentle C-sections. 

They introduced their audience to more options for families regarding cesarean birth and by doing so, offered more empowerment to birthing individuals.

When it comes to Cesarean birth, as a 25 year veteran doula, I have certainly seen the necessity for this life saving surgery more than once. But, I’ve also seen the dark side of it… The long lasting repercussions of feeling like your baby was “harvested from you” rather than being born unto you.

For many, cesarean section is not the desired choice for bringing a baby into the world, and in a no to low risk scenario, the evidence points to vaginal birth being optimal for both the parent and the child.

But imagine a family that is in strong desire of a vaginal birth. Perhaps it is their desire to practice Attachment Parenting which begins with birth bonding. They have written a birth plan, searched for the support of a birth doula and taken a childbirth education class. They have inspired themselves with positive affirmations about what they are capable of, and they are focused on the benefits that vaginal birth offers their unborn child.

Somewhere along the way, for a number of possible reasons, it is determined that a surgical birth is now necessary. This can be devastating to a family. While they are grateful to have a safe way to bring their baby into the world, it also means mourning the loss of their intended way to meet their baby.

  • Perhaps, their original plan included dim lighting… Now to be replaced by fluorescent overheads.
  • Perhaps it included a warm cozy environment… Now to be replaced by a cold operating room.
  • Perhaps it included freedom of movement… Now to be replaced by flat on their back with their arms strapped to a board.
  • Perhaps it included soft music… Now to be replaced by medical professionals discussing day to day minutiae amongst colleagues.

Enter the Gentle Cesarean Section.

A soft, comforting, bonding approach to surgical birth which includes:

  • The birthing persons support person or people
  • The musical preference of the birthing person
  • Freedom for the birthing person to move their arms
  • The opportunity for the baby to be born more slowly
  • A clear drape so that the birth can be witnessed by the parent/parents
  • The opportunity for skin-to-skin contact

You must be thinking, “Gentle cesarean section… That sounds a nice approach.”  Right? Well, I’ve personally witnessed gentle cesarean birth and the impact it has on the family is tremendous.

The initial recovery from surgery is drastically different. The birthing person is more alert and more responsive. They are more focused and higher spirited. And, they generally appear more connected to their birth experience, their baby, and their partner.

All good things, right?!

So, you can imagine my horror when Dr. Jennifer Ashton of Good Morning America described gentle cesarean section by saying it was “largely a PR campaign but in theory, there can be some benefits…”

Let’s ignore her negativity and focus on those benefits…

The ones she described were:

  • It can facilitate bonding
  • It can improve breastfeeding
  • It can reduce infant crying
  • It can decrease stress for the parent
  • It can make birth feel less surgical

I’d say those are some long lasting important benefits, wouldn’t you?

She did go on to say that “these small changes don’t effect what we’re doing as surgeons.” So if that is the case, and gentle cesarean section does not effect the procedure, why would she put a negative twist on it by referring to it as “largely a PR campaig?” Why would she perpetuate the idea that surgical birth is surgery and not birth? Why can’t it be presented as both surgery AND birth? Couldn’t we simply call it a surgical birth?

Her negativity continued when she added, “This is not like a nail salon, this is an operating room…

If an OB/GYN believes that we only understand social environments like nail salons, and that we couldn’t possibly be intelligent enough to recognize the intensity of an operating room, we have bigger problems than what music we listen to when our children are born.

To say that I was confused by the doctor’s negative comment which was followed by her list of benefits is an understatement. And when the person introducing the public about a new idea is so conflicted, it makes for really strange reporting.

These benefits make a huge difference for families during the surgical birth of their babies. Birth, and the people experiencing it deserve choices, and respect. If gentle cesarean is not yet an option in your area, I challenge you to find out why, and what needs to be done to change that. That change usually begins with conversation. Be a change maker and start those conversations!