After birth, snuggling with your new little one not only helps you feel closer, it also provides an array of health benefits. That’s why newborns are placed belly down on their mother’s chest immediately following birth for skin-to-skin contact and bonding time.
For women who have a traditional vaginal delivery, this immediate skin-to-skin contact is considered best practice. But for women who have a cesarean delivery, it’s not always an option.
Roughly 32 percent of U.S. infants are born by cesarean delivery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet, not many hospitals offer skin-to-skin contact for cesarean births despite the numerous benefits for both mother and baby.
Sharp Grossmont Hospital is now routinely providing this option, called “gentle C-section.”
“The benefits of skin-to-skin contact are well-documented and can make the transition from fetal to newborn life a lot easier,” says Dr. Kevin Fulford, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital.
“There’s quicker bonding between baby and mother,” he says. “Baby’s stress is also reduced, body temperature is better and it improves heart rate regulation. Also for breastfeeding, studies suggest that the quicker skin-to-skin contact can be made between mom and baby, the more successful the baby is in latching and breastfeeding.”
“There’s also an increase in natural oxytocin release for mother, and decreased post-op pain,” he says.
Skin-to-skin contact in an operating room environment following a C-section is a relatively new practice. Staff at Sharp Grossmont collaborated to introduce the concept and developed a workflow process that unites mother and baby almost immediately.
Previously, newborns were immediately given to the Advanced Life Support team. The baby was then dried off, assessed, swaddled, presented to the mother for a brief kiss, and then taken to the nursery. Most babies waited in the nursery for 45 minutes before being reunited with mom. Many women were disappointed that they didn’t get the chance to hold their baby immediately. Gentle C-section now unites them quickly and is becoming more popular.
“Demand for gentle C-section varies, and it’s increasing,” says Dr. Fulford. “We offer all mothers the opportunity, if they desire it. It has required a shift in culture and a few modifications in the operating room, but it’s very doable.”
Sharp Grossmont began gentle C-section in July 2016. By November 2016, 82 percent of eligible patients were taking advantage of gentle C-section.
Dr. Fulford says there are a few instances when gentle C-section can’t be performed. For example, when a mother requires a general anesthetic or the baby requires resuscitation. Even when resuscitation is required, every effort is made to reunite mother and baby in the shortest time possible.
“The safety and well-being of mothers and babies is always our first priority,” he says.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Kevin Fulford about gentle C-section for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.