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Having a 'natural' C-section is better for baby and mom

Birth

Women who have "natural" caesarean sections bond more with their babies and are more able to breastfeed, doctors say.

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File photo: The approach, which is also known as a "gentle" C-section, involves mothers watching as their baby is born through a small surgical incision, without a sheet to stop them seeing the op. Picture: Reuters

Childbirth experts are increasingly advocating the technique, which mimics normal birth by allowing the baby to emerge slowly at its own pace, without being pulled straight out by a doctor.

The approach, which is also known as a "gentle" C-section, involves mothers watching as their baby is born through a small surgical incision, without a sheet to stop them seeing the op. The child has to wriggle and force itself through the gap, as it would in an ordinary birth.

Doctors say women given slow caesareans bond better with their children, because they can hold them without having them whisked away to be cleaned up.

Dr Felicity Plaat, a consultant anaesthetist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London, says the technique is safe, popular and associated with increased breastfeeding rates.One in four pregnant women in the UK give birth by caesarean section.

Dr Plaat, speaking at Euroanaesthesia Congress in Geneva, said normal C-sections reduce the mother’s role to that of a passive patient.

Mothers are often sedated or given a general anaesthetic and the operation itself can take as little as two minutes – with the cord cut immediately and the baby taken away and cleaned. A natural C-section, in which women are given minimal anaesthetic and watch the process, involves giving the baby more time to wriggle free.

When it emerges it is placed straight on the mother’s chest, with the cord still attached. Dr Plaat said: "In the UK at least, with the emphasis on normal birth, many women requiring C-sections have a feeling of inadequacy or even failure. The natural caesarean section appears to mitigate this, by increasing bonding opportunities between mother and baby.

"I believe natural caesarean makes the experience of birth much more satisfying for the increasing number of women who require a C-section.

"Denying women this in order to discourage them from considering this mode of delivery is in my personal opinion, completely unethical."

Dr Plaat, who published a research paper about natural caesareans in 2008, said criticism of the technique was "immediate and initially hostile".

Critics said the "natural" process would lead to more women asking for caesarean sections, even if they were not medically required, she said.

"Most women who have caesareans are advised to do so – there is a medical indication," added Dr Plaat.

Dr Plaat, who is backed by the Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that in 2010 elements of the technique were available in at least 55 percent of units. Anecdotally "a lot more units" are now offering it, she said.

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