What to Know About a Gentle C-Section

Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 16, 2021

Almost one-third of births in the U.S. are delivered by cesarean section — or C-section. Surgical births are performed in the hospital, with a medical team present.  Gentle C-sections allow you more choices and control.

Hospitals offering gentle cesareans allow you to have a family member with you. You also have choices about immediate breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact. A gentle cesarean is also called a natural cesarean.

What Is a Gentle C-Section?

A gentle C-section is also done in a hospital operating room but is more "family-friendly." You can choose to have background music and ask for dimmed lights. 

Your doctor will use spinal anesthesia, which numbs the lower half of your body. You don't feel pain during the surgery, but you are fully conscious and can watch your baby being born.

With a regular cesarean section, your baby is taken away immediately after birth. They are then dried, cleaned, weighed, examined by a pediatrician, swaddled, and handed over to your family outside the operating room. When you opt for a gentle C-section, your baby stays with you. You use the all-important first hour for bonding.

How Is the Gentle C-Section Procedure Done?

After you are numbed with anesthesia, your obstetrician begins the C-section, makes cuts in your skin, your abdominal muscles, and your uterus. They'll lift your baby out and then sew up the layers. 

With a gentle C-section, the green cloth barrier normally used to keep the surgical area sterile is replaced by a clear one so that you can see your baby being born.

A C-section is a major surgical procedure, so your medical team will use various monitors. During a gentle cesarean, they attach the leads for these monitors to your side or back. This way, you can hold your baby on your chest soon after their birth. 

All the probes and intravenous lines will be attached to one arm. Your dominant arm is kept free for your baby.

How Is The Gentle C- Section Recovery?

A gentle cesarean offers a less “sterile” experience than a typical surgery. However, the C-section procedure is the same. You are going through a major surgery. Your body needs care and time to heal, as with a regular C-section.

Take all the medicines as prescribed, and avoid physical strain and sex until you have healed. If you have heavy bleeding, fever, or severe pain, call your doctor.

What Are the Advantages of a Gentle C-Section?

With a gentle C-section, you may feel more in control of the process, even though it's in a hospital. You and your family will have a more satisfying birth experience with a gentle cesarean.  

You can have your baby with you immediately for skin-to-skin contact. This contact promotes bonding, which has several advantages. Breastfeeding success is more likely, you'll develop attachment earlier, and your baby feels more secure after entering the world. 

Other advantages of gentle C-section include:

  • You can choose your baby's birthday.
  • You can walk into the operating room.
  • You are conscious through the entire surgical birth.
  • You can choose to play music.

Are Gentle C-Sections Safe?

Yes, they are. Women who choose a gentle C-section don't have more infections or bleeding. Babies born by gentle C-section are just as healthy, too. The surgery may last a few minutes longer, which is not a danger.

As your baby is born, your doctor will quickly assess them. If they cry well and have good color and muscle tone, they'll be dried off and given to you.

If your baby needs treatment at birth, they'll be given treatment right away. Your doctor may shift the baby to a resuscitation station or nursery — which may be against your wishes -- if needed. The medical team will make every effort to give you a kinder, gentler birth experience, but safety always comes first.

Show Sources

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Approaches to Limit Intervention During Labor and Birth," "Cesarean Birth".
Brigham and Women's Hospital: "The Gentle Cesarean."
The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine: "Risks and benefits of the skin-to-skin cesarean section – a retrospective cohort study."
MU Health: "A Gentler C-Section."

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