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Are “gentle C-sections” the new trend when it comes to birth options?

The United States has one of the highest cesarean section rates in the world, a result of many varying factors. But could a new, popular method of birth called the “gentle C-section” increase that rate, and what does that mean for women giving birth in the U.S.?

C-sections occur when a baby arrives via a surgical cut in the mother’s abdomen. A C-section can happen as part of a birth plan for a variety of reasons, or it can be an emergency procedure during a vaginal birth if there is some sort of problem with either the mother or baby.

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For many, a C-section can be a difficult method of birth. First of all, it is surgery and can be taxing on the body with a longer recovery period than with a vaginal birth. Depending on the need for a C-section, it can also prevent immediate bonding between mother and child and can sometimes be fraught with stress, chaos or uncertainty. However, a new trend in birth called “gentle C-sections” may help make surgical birth a more comfortable experience.

Dr. Jane Frederick, an internationally noted specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, talked to SheKnows, helping to explain more about gentle C-sections. “The [gentle C-section] offers a more natural approach to the C-section to promote more skin-to-skin contact and bonding with Mother and Baby,” says Dr. Frederick. “The [gentle C-section] is a way for the mother and partner to have the closest experience to a natural childbirth as possible, without being rushed through a cesarean procedure. The room is quiet, sometimes with calming music, and monitoring attachments are placed on different areas of the mother to allow her skin to have contact and [she can] hold her baby immediately after birth. The birthing process is slowed down and the mother even has the option to watch the procedure with the help of strategically placed mirrors. Once Baby is born, there is immediate skin-to-skin contact and the doctor waits to clamp and cut the umbilical cord. Moms can even breastfeed immediately if desired.”

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This is certainly a departure from the more impersonal feeling of traditional C-sections. And while some C-sections are indeed planned, many are emergencies. Dr. Frederick notes that gentle C-sections are not recommended for premature births or emergency C-sections. “The [gentle C-section] can be performed as long as there are no medical risks to Mom and Baby,” she explains. “It’s important to note that the C-section, whether gentle or not, is still a form of ‘unnatural’ childbirth and can still pose a risk to Mother and Baby. Patients should consult with their doctor to see if the [gentle C-section] option is the best birthing plan for them.”

The gentle C-section is a rather new approach or rather new trend to the C-section with only a few years in the making. Although not fully embraced, the gentle C-section is becoming increasingly popular in hospitals across the globe. More and more doctors are recognizing the gentle C-section as a beneficial option for their patients and the birth experience — creating a calm environment and bonding experience for Mother and Baby. However, in a country like the U.S., that has a high C-section rate, will gentle C-sections encourage more surgical births, even in cases where they may not be medically necessary?

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“Not necessarily,” says Dr. Fredrick. “It’s important to stress that natural childbirth is always preferred, but if certain factors permit a C-section, a gentle C-section can be an option for the patient if their physician is willing.”

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