Having a cesarean does not mean you and your baby need to miss out on near immediate skin-to-skin contact. Learn how you can advocate for and implement getting your baby on your chest skin-to-skin in the operating room.
Immediate skin-to-skin with mommy
Regardless of whether your cesarean birth was planned or unplanned, your baby can still benefit from being safely skin-to-skin with you immediately after the surgery. It will take some planning and discussion but your effort may very well be rewarded with a chance to connect with your new baby in the operating room.
When you include information on your birth plan about cesarean section, be sure to indicate that having your baby skin-to-skin in the operating room is very important to you. Discuss with your health care provider in advance how they can help make that happen. It may not be hospital policy or standard protocol, but remember that you are the customer. Your request may blaze the way for other women who come after you. Assure your doctor or midwife that the safety of both you and the baby are your utmost concern, but if you are both stable, you would like your wish to be accommodated. You may need to involve hospital personnel in the discussion, but don’t be discouraged.
An extra pair of hands
Having your baby skin-to-skin in the operating room will require an extra pair of hands, either from your partner, a doula or the other support person you have chosen to have in the operating room. Occasionally this person is a hospital staff member. It will be that person’s responsibility to make sure that your voice is heard. He or she can repeat your request for the baby to be brought over to you ASAP. They can also help get you ready to receive your baby and make sure the baby is securely held and covered appropriately to stay warm.
Newborn procedures can wait
Once the baby is born by cesarean, he or she is taken immediately over to the baby warmer for assessment and care. As soon as your baby is stable, it can be brought over to you. If the baby is doing well, standard procedures such as weighing the baby, eye antibiotic treatment, vitamin K administration, diapering, swaddling, bathing and other protocols can be done after you and your baby are out of the operating room and back in your room. Your requests may not be well received, because you are asking the hospital to deviate from their normal procedures, but if everyone in stable, it is important for your wishes to be acknowledged if possible.
How it happens
After the baby is born, you can have your partner unsnap your hospital gown and keep it covering your chest until your baby is ready to come over. When your baby is brought over to you, as your incision is being repaired, your support person can pull back your gown, unwrap your baby and lay the newborn chest down, across your chest sideways, with the baby’s head on or near your breast. You will need someone to help you cover the baby with a warm blanket. Please be sure that someone else always keeps a hand on the baby too, so that that baby is secure on your chest. Turn your baby’s head to the side, to look at you. Your baby's feet will be hanging off your chest on the other side, covered by the blanket.
Benefits for baby
While lying on your chest, your covered baby will be warmed by your skin, which will help him or her to maintain their body temperature. They can smell you, see you and hear you. This helps to reduce the baby’s stress levels, stabilizes blood sugar and comforts the baby rather quickly. They also will be able to smell the nipple — their source of food — and may even lick and possible nurse. Just being close to you is infinitely reassuring to the just-born baby.
Benefits for mother
Having your baby skin-to-skin with you in the operating room allows you to connect immediately with your newborn. You can look into her eyes, feel her skin, smell her and hear her. It provides natural pain relief, helping you to remain calm just by having your baby so close. Having your baby skin-to-skin is emotionally and physically reassuring, and provides an opportunity for bonding as soon as possible after birth.
It can’t happen if you don’t ask
Skin-to-skin in the operating room after a cesarean is not a common occurrence, but I believe that we will see it happening more and more as women learn about their options, advocate for themselves and their babies and find their voice. You may not find it is possible with this baby, but be persistent and polite and one day, every woman will find this an option available to her during a cesarean birth.
About the author
Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE is a birth doula, Lamaze certified childbirth educator and CBE trainer, author and international speaker. Through her practice, New Moon Birth, located in Seattle, Washington, Sharon empowers families and birth professionals through support and education. Sharon is also the community manager for Science & Sensibility, Lamaze International's blog for childbirth professionals.