I love delivering babies.
After 15 years on the job, each birth is still a miracle to me. When I place the wet, squiggly newborn on her momma’s chest for the first time, I almost always have a giant grin behind my mask. After I do a quick double check to make sure mom is stable, I will often simply sit back and watch the beauty of life for a few precious minutes.
As the baby begins to cry and fill her lungs with oxygen for the first time, her blueish body will quickly pinken-up. The mom is often misty eyed with joy, as the pain and exhaustion of labor are quickly replaced by the euphoria of holding her child for the first time. Dad usually stands frozen in awe for a few seconds before the reality of what happened hits him as well. He will then laugh or cry or just kiss both of his loved ones profusely, sometimes all three at the same time.
I don’t get to be birth tourist for long; I have to get back to work pretty quickly. I must deliver the placenta; make sure mom’s bleeding is normal and several other less glamorous parts of obstetrics. But always try to steal a few moments to soak up the true miracle of life.
I enjoy performing C-sections as well. I realize that for many women and babies, it is a necessary life- saving procedure, but I’ve always felt sad that my patients didn’t get the immediate bonding with a C-section that they do with a vaginal delivery.
Then we started hearing about more facilities performing “family centered” or “natural” C-sections. This involved allowing the patient to hold the baby shortly after birth and have skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after delivery while still in the operating room.
I am excited that we have now started offering family centered C-sections at my hospital, Williamson Medical Center. We start by placing the EKG stickers on the mom’s back instead of front so they don’t get in the way of the baby. Then once the baby is delivered, he is quickly checked out by the nurse. Then when he is stable, he is placed directly on the mom’s chest, maintaining the sterile field of surgery.
During skin-to-skin with a C-section, the baby is dried first in order to prevent him from getting too cold (the operating room is often colder than a normal delivery room). Mom’s gown is unsnapped at the shoulder so he can be tucked underneath and placed directly on her breast. A Warm blanket is placed on top of him to help maintain the temperature as well. A nursery nurse will standby to make sure baby is doing well.
The first four hours of the baby’s life are a key time to breastfeed, this is when their natural suckling instincts are thought to be at their highest. At Williamson, we hope to encourage breastfeeding success in all our patients. Skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby is thought to have many benefits including more effective first feeding, a higher rate of continued breastfeeding and less anxiety for mom. With our family centered C-sections at Williamson Medical Center, we want our C-section momma to have the same opportunities as the moms with traditional deliveries.
Of course some babies will not be healthy enough to feed right away. The great part at Williamson is that we have in-house neonatal nurse practitioners and a Level 2B NICU on standby to handle any emergencies that may arise. With most deliveries, they are able to quickly check the baby out and then get her to her momma. If there are issues, we have staff there to handle unforeseen emergencies.
Williamson also has a clear surgical drape for moms who really want to “see it all.” Honestly, we don’t have many families take us up on that one. Also some moms will not feel comfortable nursing or having skin-to-skin in the operating room, and that is OK too. This is not anything that is required, just an option for those moms who want it. If desired, the nurses will expertly swaddle the little one and let dad hold her until they are back in their room.
At Williamson Medical Center, our goal is for each baby and mother to have a safe, healthy delivery. For those labors where a C-section is the safest option, we know that often these women are disappointed they do not get to experience a vaginal birth. By offering skin-to-skin at the time of C-section, when appropriate, we know that can improve the experience and bonding of both baby and mom.
Benefits of Early Skin-to-Skin Contact with C-Sections
According to the World Health Organization, benefits of early skin-to-skin contact with C-sections include the following:
- Reduces the need for formula supplementation
- Improves breast feeding success
- Improves maternal satisfaction
- Reduces newborn stress
- Improves newborn temperature regulation
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