By Elizabeth Beilman
A group of nurses at West Chester Hospital last year initiated a new protocol for the “gentle C-section,” an alternative to the traditional Cesarean section that allows mothers to feel more connected to their birthing experience.
Gentle C-sections promote immediate skin-to-skin contact, given the baby is stable, and allow parents to become participants in the process.
Mothers are given the option to be slightly propped up to view the birth through a clear plastic drape, with a solid drape obscuring the incision site. The baby’s other parent can be given a sterile sleeve that allows him or her to cut the cord in the surgical environment as they would during a vaginal birth.
Once the baby is born, he or she is placed on the mother’s chest after dried and covered with a warm towel. The newborn’s vital signs can be taken during this skin-to-skin time, with a clinician close by for support. Mothers can opt for less sedation following the surgery to remain more alert during this important bonding experience.
Vicki Minnich, MSN, RN, clinical manager for the Labor and Delivery Unit at West Chester Hospital, said nurses started the program in concert with physicians and staff because they wanted to meet the needs of their patient population.
“We have this big effort to promote skin-to-skin for babies and moms, and it definitely enhances bonding,” Minnich said. “Parents love that they feel like they are part of their own delivery.”
Julia Case, BSN, RN, said parents who initially plan for vaginal deliveries appreciate the level of involvement they are given in gentle C-sections.
“I think it provides them their own experience being able to see it for themselves, just as they would have been able to in the vaginal delivery they were hoping for,” she said.
Many of the nurses who work in the Labor and Delivery Unit are mothers themselves, so they can empathize with their patients’ wishes.
“We have the privilege of coming to work every day and helping babies come into the world,” Case said. “When you only get to do it once, you want to have the best experience you can.”