In the last few years, the buzz around "gentle cesareans" has continued to grow as more hospitals decide to offer small yet powerful changes to a generally impersonal procedure. Maybe soft, calming music plays and lights are dimmed in the operation room. Maybe newborns are brought to mom's chest for skin-to-skin contact and bonding, instead of being immediately whisked away. And maybe, instead of using an opaque surgical drape, doctors use a transparent one that allows mom to see her baby being born.
This last option in particular has garnered a lot of interest from moms looking for alternatives. One of the most viral moments this year was an incredible video shared by a doctor in Venezuela of a baby's head slowly emerging through a small incision, instead of being pulled out by the doctor.
Most recently, the clear drape has also made for amazing captures by photographer and doula Alyssa Leon. Leon's photos have been shared across platforms and by several media outlets. They show the moments many moms crave, especially when they think their bodies have failed them because they couldn't have a vaginal delivery.
"This can be such a healing way for families to process an unexpected change of plans, so that they can be fully present during the birth of their child," Leon writes on Instagram.
Plus, clear drapes aren't incredibly difficult to find, as they're typically used in open-heart and orthopedic surgeries already.
"How do you know what options you have if you don't ask?" she says in another caption.
Cesarean birth is birth. Sometimes circumstances determine that for baby and momma, it is the best option. There are limited practices that support and encourage a clear drape. This can be such a healing way for families to process an unexpected change of plans, so that they can be fully present during the birth of their child. #gentlecesareanbirth
In the U.S., about 32 percent of all deliveries are through C-sections, the most common surgery in the country. The procedure can get a bad rap, not only among mothers but also in the medical community, as rates can be either way too high or too low.
"No one is trying to advocate for C-sections. We really don't want to increase the cesarean rate, we just want to make it better for those who have to have it," Dr. William Camann told NPR. Camann is the director of obstetric anesthesiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and one of the pioneers of the gentle C-section, also known as "family-centered cesarean."
Tabita Dawes gave birth to her fourth child at North Carolina Women's Hospital and discussed the option with her medical team. After three C-sections, she felt she wanted to be more of a part of her baby's birth. It totally transformed the experience for her.
"I learned that at UNC, how you give birth—even when you need a cesarean section—can be an open conversation. As a mother, that changed how I viewed the experience. It becomes something you are part of and that you choose, rather than something that's done to you," Dawes said.
It was a valuable experience for the medical team, too.
"It is much more rewarding to put in a little extra effort and see the difference we can make for our patients. I've always believed that birth is an experience, not a procedure. I love that the entire team at UNC is dedicated to providing a positive birth experience in addition to positive outcomes," said Emily Jackson, Dawes' nurse manager for labor and delivery.
NPR reports that many hospitals are still hesitant to go for gentle C-sections because of the lack of clinical studies and scientific data on issues like infection control. But with studies increasingly showing the positive outcomes of gentle C-sections, perhaps the tide will turn sooner than we think.
What Your OB Wants You to Know Before Your C-Section
You are much more likely to deliver a baby via C-section today than even 20 years ago. In fact, the number of times the procedure was performed increased 60 percent from 1996 to 2009. In 2010, the Cesarean delivery rate was a whopping 32.8% of all U.S. births.
So we spoke to two experts on what to expect after a Cesarean birth: Helene Byrne, founder of BeFit-Mom, is a pre- and postnatal health and fitness expert, and author of the award-winning DVD "Bounce Back Fast! Post Natal Core Conditioning" and the book "Exercise after Pregnancy: How to Look and Feel Your Best"; and Dr. Kecia Gaither, maternal fetal medicine specialist and director of perinatal outreach at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y.