Birth plans. Everyone seems to have an opinion on them, often at widely varying ends of the scale. For me, a well researched, informed and clear birth plan helped facilitate a sense of empowerment for both my births, even if the first was not what I had hoped for.
Birth will always be unpredictable. but there are things you can do to ensure that whatever path your birth takes, that your wishes are heard and respected. Points that will be top priority in one mothers birth plan, may not even feature in the plan of another, so it is impossible for midwives and other medical staff to know what YOU want unless it’s there for them to see. Some people will claim that you should ‘just go with the flow’. At no other time in your life would you hand over the ‘reins’ of a life changing event to someone else, so why would you when you are bringing a baby in to the world? Your wishes may have to adapt and change during the course of your pregnancy and labour, and you might need to prioritise your non negotiable points over the ‘would be nice to have but can live without’ parts. But a birth plan can help you ‘own your birth’, and this is particularly relevant when it comes to caesarean sections.
Quite often, in the Natural Caesarean UK Facebook group, parents will say that they didn’t realise that they had options regarding how their baby came in to the world, once the decision for a caesarean section had been made. A caesarean section doesn’t mean you have to be passive – you CAN be an active participant in the birth of your baby. Some options that enhance the mothers experience of a caesarean section may be done as standard in your hospital, while others you may have to ask for. This all depends on your hospitals exposure to these requests previously.
If you have time prior to your section, it would be worth speaking to your local Supervisor of Midwives/Head of Midwifery and your consultant prior to your section date, to get your plan agreed well in advance. Then you can relax in the run up to your babies birth day! There is nothing in the following list of points for consideration that cannot be facilitated by a hospital in the UK. We are very lucky to have many forward thinking and progressive hospitals now adopting the women centred caesarean section technique as their go to method for caesarean birth, so don’t be afraid to question ‘why?’, if you are told they ‘can’t’ or ‘don’t’ do certain things.
This is by no means an exhaustive list – there may well be things I’ve left out that are relevant to you, and points below that don’t concern you whatsoever. And that’s fine – it is YOUR women centred/gentle/natural caesarean section birth, and you decide what will make it the most positive and empowering experience for you and your family. And even if you are planning a natural hospital or home birth, having an awareness of what is available to you, or creating a ‘Plan C’, means that you (or your birth partner) can ensure some of your wishes are still met
Planning Your Caesarean Section – what options are available?
- Birth partners – who do you want to be present with you during your caesarean? Will you have your partner, doula or both? Some hospitals may be reluctant to allow more than one birth to be present – you may need to speak to them in advance
- Birth partners to be present during the siting of your anaesthesia, and to stay with you throughout your caesarean section.
- Monitoring equipment placed elsewhere, rather than your chest or hands, to allow for easy skin to skin access
- Gown on back to front for the same reason. You may also want to slip your non drip arm out of the gown prior to your section commencing.
- Cannula and drip to be placed in non dominant hand to enable you to hold baby more easily.
- Hushed voices in theatre and lowered/dimmed lights if possible
- Own music/hypnobirthing tracks on in theatre
- Seeding the microbiome
- Taking a camera with you to take pictures
- Lowered screens so you can see your baby being born. It is possible for your head and shoulders to be raised a little to help you see more clearly once your babies head is out.
- Allowing baby to be gently and slowly squeezed out by the uterus, to mimic the lung compression of a vaginal birth
- Optimal cord clamping and use of cord ties if desired.
- Finding out/announcing the sex of your baby yourself
- Baby passed to you for immediate skin to skin. There is no need for baby to be dried and wrapped before being given to you, and if all is well, initial basic checks can be performed with baby on your chest. Dry towels/blankets can be used to keep you and baby warm. Weighing can be done when you are out of theatre. If you are unable to have skin to skin for any reason, you may want to specify that your partner has skin to skin with the baby instead.
- Vernix not to be rubbed off
- Feeding to be initiated in theatre if possible
- Baby not to be seperated unnecessarily from you
- How long do you want to stay in hospital? It is possible to be discharged after 24 hours if you and baby are medically well
What would make your caesarean section a positive experience? Personally, having skin to skin immediately was of utmost importance. I hadn’t got any when T was born, and really struggled with being taken away from him straight away to go to theatre, so being able to have M placed straight on my chest was wonderful. I had got my birth plan ‘approved’ well in advance, so even though my waters broke early, there were no issues surrounding any of my requests. Sometimes you won’t be able to do all this beforehand though, which is when having well versed and supportive birth partners to speak up for you can be really beneficial – not just for an emergency situation, but in general anyway.
Did you have a caesarean section? I’d love to hear about it – you can leave me a comment or get in touch