All births are transitions. Transitions from pregnancy to parenthood. Regardless of how you birth, each birthing person can benefit from feeling centred, connected and relaxed. For some people an elective caesarean birth may not be a preferred choice and this can contribute to feelings of anxiety and concern. For others, birthing abdominally is very much a first choice. All feelings are valid. At the Real Birth Project we believe there are lots of choices and tools which can support pregnancy, birth and your transition to parenthood. In this blog post we want to explore some of those choices, decision making, considerations and tools for planned abdominal births.
What is a planned or elective caesarean?
The terms planned or elective caesareans refer to abdominal births which are planned in advance of the time of birth. They are most commonly offered in circumstances where the baby is ‘malpositioned’ e.g. a breech presentation or in the case of multiples where you are birthing more than one baby. However, a key word here is ‘offered’. There are choices for vaginal births in both of these cases which can be discussed with your caregivers.
Caesareans may also be offered as a result of known medical conditions and circumstances for mother and baby. In these cases you will usually be under the care of a specialist obstetric team in addition to the midwifery team.
For some birthing people an elective caesarian is a preferred choice for birth. This can be for a variety of reasons and is a valid choice. It can be helpful to share your decision making with your care team from an early stage, if possible. You should be given the opportunity to discuss the benefits and risks associated with your choice of birth and you should be able to discuss it as often as you wish during your pregnancy.
Whether planned or maternal request it’s important that you feel informed and empowered about your options for birth. As with many things in pregnancy and birth you may come across a number of differing opinions and a variety information. If possible, really take time to consider your options and explore your feelings as fully as possible so that you can make a decision which feels right for you and your family.
What happens in a planned or elective caesarean birth and what choices do I have?
An elective caesarean is scheduled ahead of time. You will likely be invited to come to hospital on a specific day and time. Often you are asked to attend early morning but your birth may not happen until later that day. Commonly a caesarean takes place under a spinal block or epidural – both of which numb you from the ribcage downwards. You will still be awake. Less commonly general anaesthetic can be used and in this case you would be asleep.
You may be surprised how many people are present in the room during your birth. Expect anywhere between 6 and 16 healthcare professionals to be present. It’s normal for a screen to be placed over the mothers chest during the birth. Once you are comfortable your birth will begin.
What choices can I make?
With elective caesareans there is often plenty of time to consider your options and express your choices for your birth. Having time to prepare can really support your feelings in pregnancy and during your birth. You may wish to consider and discuss the following with your partner and your birth team:
- Lighting and noise in the birthing space
- Announcement of baby’s sex
- Who is first to hold baby
- Immediate skin to skin
- Delayed/optimal cord clamping – who cuts the cord? Or would you like baby to stay attached as in a lotus birth.
- Sight of and retention of the placenta
- Vaginal seeding
- Who stays with baby after the birth – supporting the golden hour
Ok, I’m having a planned abdominal birth, what tools could support me?
Our experience matters. Having a planned abdominal birth can be a wonderful way to birth. It’s important that you take time to explore and consider your feelings so that you can feel connected and supported during your birth. Here are some simple tools for you to consider;
- Your birth partners can be close and connected to you – use soft touch is possible to support oxytocin production
- Request music if you feel this would help relax you
- Make use of a number of deep, slow breathing techniques
- Use affirmations and ask your birth partner to support you with them
- Ask for lowered light levels is possible in the birthing space to support your oxytocin levels
- Request your gown is placed on backwards to make skin to skin easier
- Consider lowering the screen for birth so you can see your baby being born
- You may be able to discuss supporting your baby to be born with your hands
- Prepare properly for postnatal recovery – this is significant abdominal surgery
It is worth considering all of the above even if you plan to birth vaginally. Should your birth change direction you may benefit from having considered your options for abdominal birth ahead of time.
Share your voice
We love hearing from women and birthing people. Your voice and experience are valid. We believe that there is wisdom in each birth and we’d love to hear from you.
Were you offered an elective caesarian and did you accept?
How did you feel about your options and were you supported in your decision making?
What choices did you make and how did you support yourself during your birth?
Share your birth story
In this space, we want you to feel seen, heard and supported.
We value hearing all birth stories.
Your voice matters.
If this post resonates, we would love to hear your thoughts!
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