Each and every birth is a unique, powerful, challenging and amazing experience. We live in a culture that often places a lot of importance on the route of birth rather than the experience a woman has during the birth process. My goal as a doula is to help families to have a positive experience during the birth process – regardless of the route in which the baby enters the world. When a cesarean birth becomes necessary, whether planned, unplanned or an emergency, there are many things women and their families can do to help the mother have a positive birth experience and preserve her birth memory.
It is crucial that women explore these options prior to birth, even if they have a very strong desire to avoid a surgical birth. By educating yourself about your options it will empower you to have a birth that is positive in the case that things do not go the way you are hoping for. There are several ways that you can educate yourself. For example, you can attend childbirth classes, read books, hire an experienced doula and discuss your options with your provider.
In regards to your birthing options, there are three stages to consider as you educate yourself in an effort to ensure a cesarean birth is a positive experience. These stages include prenatal, during the birth and postpartum. By learning about options and deciding what is most important to you, a birthing family can help ensure they will have a positive feeling about their cesarean birth.
Cultivating Prenatal Preparedness and Intention for Cesarean Birth
During the prenatal phase of your pregnancy, it is important to educate yourself about the process of a cesarean so you can feel less anxiety in the case that a surgical birth becomes necessary. Understanding the procedure and understanding that you do have options is crucial to any birth. Some things you may want to focus on are:
- Pick a provider/group of providers that you trust will make the right choice for you in the event of an unexpected or emergency cesarean. Many families who feel upset after a cesarean birth express that they are not sure that a surgical birth was necessary and question their provider’s decision-making process.
- Spend some time learning coping techniques during your pregnancy. Not only are they important for active labor, but they can also be utilized during a surgical birth if a mom starts to panic during the surgery. These coping methods can include breathing, relaxation techniques, and visualization. One example is having an mp3 player with a relaxation track to listen to during the surgery.
- Create a short birth plan written up with all your priorities in the event of surgical birth.
- If you are concerned about the anesthesia aspects of a surgical birth consider having a consultation with an anesthesiologist during your pregnancy.
Creating a Positive Cesarean Birth Experience on the Day of Your Baby’s Arrival
Many women often feel out of control during birth. In a cesarean birth, there is an elevated chance of this happening. It is important to know the things you do have control over and how to ask for those things. You are never guaranteed that you will be able to have everything you want during a cesarean, however, if you do not know what your options are you may have no options at all. Below is a list of some of the aspects of the birth that you may still assert your control of in your effort to maintain a positive experience.
- Have your birth partner and doula attend the cesarean. (If the hospital will not allow more than one person for the birth you can ask to have your doula available in the event baby and partner need to go to NICU. This way the doula can join mom in the surgery and/or recovery room so she is never alone).
- Lower drapes at time of birth so mom can see baby immediately and partner can take pictures of the baby.
- Delay cord clamping if possible.
- Immediate skin to skin contact and breastfeeding if mom is feeling capable and baby is transitioning well.
- “Vaginal Seeding” if the mother is a good candidate.
Cultivating Healing and Processing in Your Cesarean Birth Recovery
The final stage to consider is the immediate postpartum period. Having a good understanding of what to expect after a surgical birth and how to set yourself up for smoothest recovery possible is an extremely important part of feeling good about your birth. You may want to consider the following:
- Have emotional support while in recovery from a trusted person (partner, friend, doula) will help ease the transition.
- Plan to see a lactation consultant within a few hours of the birth. This will help breastfeeding get off to a good start. The lactation consultant can help with nursing positions that will not bother your incision. (Cesarean births can delay your full milk supply so having a trusted IBCLC to guide you will help avoid unnecessary supplementation).
- Stay on top of pain medication. This is key to helping your recovery go smoothly. Many women want to get off of pain medication quickly. Make sure to have a conversation with your provider about this before leaving the hospital).
- Ask the hospital for a belly-bind to wear as you are recovering.
- All postpartum moms need support when heading home but mothers birthing by cesarean often need a bit more hands-on support so their body can rest and recover. Lining up a few trusted support people you can tap into once you are home will help your healing go smoother.
- Talk about your birth with trusted, nonjudgmental people. It is crucial for you to tell your birth story many times without judgment or interruption so you can process the experience and highlight the parts of the birth that you struggled with and felt positive about.
Babies enter the world in many ways different ways. The route of delivery should never define a woman’s birth. Giving birth, regardless of the route, will change the birthing woman in many ways. When a woman has a positive birth experience, it will affect the way she feels about herself, her baby and her birth for the rest of her life. Having good support lined up and educating yourself about your options will help you feel like an active participate in your birth and give you a stronger sense of control which will ultimately improve the likelihood of having a positive birth experience.
Wendy Scharp, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), ICCE, CLC
Portland Doula Love
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