The term “natural caesarean” seems like an oxymoron – after all, the standard environment for this kind of birth – an operating theatre, with surgical team in sterile scrubs and baby being removed from its mother’s womb via an abdominal incision before being taken to a rescuscitaire to be checked over and often then weighed before it is brought over for the new mother to see is anything but a natural environment for giving birth. Mothers who give birth by caesarean are more likely to suffer from postnatal depression, bonding difficulties and struggle with breastfeeding as well as feeling less satisfied with their birth experience. With caesarean rates continuing to rise and around 1 in 3 births in many hospitals being caesareans, the question of whether this can be done in a more natural way is one that is starting to be considered.
The natural caesarean birth was developed by Professor Nick Fisk at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in west London as a way of trying to make the birth experience more meaningful and positive for those mothers undergoing caesareans whilst allowing the baby to be born gently and safely in a way that mimics the birth process in a vaginal birth.
What happens in a natural caesarean birth?
- The caesarean starts as normal with the screen raised and sterile procedures observed. Probes for monitoring and intravenous lines are placed where they are least obtrusive.
- The screen is lowered after the incision is made and the back of the bed may be raised to help the parents observe the birth of their baby.
- Once the baby’s head is born and the baby is crying, the shoulders are then eased out. The rest of the body is birthed gradually and the baby will often deliver its own arms as it makes its way through the incision.
- The gradual birth allows the baby’s chest to be squeezed as it would be during a vaginal birth and helps the lung fluids to clear spontaneously.
- The baby continues to receive oxygen from the umbilical cord and there is no immediate rush to cut and clamp the cord once the baby is born.
- After the baby is born, it is placed on the mother’s chest for skin-to-skin contact and the screen is then raised.
The baby’s safety remains of utmost importance throughout the procedure and if there are concerns with the baby’s (or the mother’s) wellbeing, the standard procedures for caesarean birth are reverted to.
A natural caesarean birth may be an option for women who are having a planned (elective) caesarean if the baby is in a head-down position and term. It may also be an option in non-urgent emergency (unplanned) caesareans but is not suitable for preterm babies, multiple births or breech births.
The following video clip shows Sarah, a friend of mine giving birth to her son. She has kindly given me permission to share her beautiful video and her thoughts on having a natural caesarean:
“I know it’s a personal moment but when I knew I had to have a caesarean I was gutted, felt like my body had let me down and it would be an awful experience. My team leader knew I felt this way and had recently been to a lecture in London about natural caesarean and approached me and asked if I wanted to be their guinea pig. I never in a million years expected it to be so amazing, the whole theatre was on a high afterwards too! The atmosphere wasn’t tense, we were all relaxed, having a laugh and enjoying watching Leo give birth to himself!”
The team at Torbay Hospital where baby Leo was born were so amazed by the experience that they are now considering rolling this out as standard practice for planned caesarean births where this option is considered to be a viable one.
You can read the original paper by Professor Fisk and his team about natural caesarean birth here. Thank you Sarah for sharing your beautiful birth experience with me.