October 5 is National Child Health Day, a federal observance started nearly 90 years ago to encourage Americans to focus on the health and well-being of children of all ages. That includes helping expecting mothers plan for a healthy arrival of their soon-to-be little ones.
If you’re an expectant mother, you’re likely already making your child’s health a priority by scheduling regular visits with your obstetrician, adjusting your diet and limiting certain activities during your pregnancy. But have you thought about important considerations for delivery day? For example, skin-to-skin contact with your newborn immediately after delivery can help your baby get off to a healthy start.
The International Breastfeeding Centre lists numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after delivery. These benefits include a happier baby with a more elevated blood sugar level, a more stable temperature, heart rate and breathing rate.
The benefits are not fleeting, however. Mothers who have skin-to-skin contact with their babies are more likely to breastfeed in the first one to four months, and tend to breastfeed longer, according to a report from the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group, analyzing 34 studies of more than 2,000 mothers and their babies.
Traditionally, skin-to-skin time has been limited to natural vaginal births. In instances where a mother has given birth by cesarean section, the baby is often sent to an incubator before a mother can hold or see her baby.
Today, nearly one in three U.S. women now gives birth via C-section, according to the CDC. That equals more than one million moms annually who are denied the benefits of skin-on-skin contact with their newborn.
Fortunately, many hospitals now offer a solution in the form of a “family-centered birth experience.” Also known as a “gentle cesarean,” a family-centered birth experience includes certain aspects of a natural childbirth during a C-section operation, including allowing moms to watch the delivery, (but not the C-section procedure) as well as hold their babies immediately after delivery.
Traditionally, C-section deliveries are blocked off by an opaque screen. New options such as a family viewing C-section drape allow moms to witness their babies’ first breath through a see-through window, while still maintaining an essential surgical barrier.
If you’re planning to have a C-section and want to have a family-centered birth experience, do your research to find a hospital that offers the service and can deliver it the way you want.
Ensuring skin-on-skin time with the baby will require additional staff and rearranging of equipment in the delivery room, as well as altered placement of the EKG leads on your body. Discuss these details with your doctor beforehand to ensure the hospital can make the necessary arrangements.
Opting for a family-centered birth experience will require some additional upfront planning during pregnancy, but the bond created between mother and child will be a lifelong memory for the family.