Families welcoming a new baby via cesarean section are now able to have a birthing experience that more closely mirrors traditional vaginal births thanks to a new practice being offered at Franciscan Health Michigan City.
“During a cesarean section, once the baby is delivered, we hand over the baby first to the nurse or the pediatrician and then a good amount of time lapses before the mother actually gets to see and hold the baby” Franciscan Physician Network OB/GYN Dr. Sharmilee Thota, MD, said. “The mother and her partner miss out on having the first glimpse of their baby, touching the baby and also doing skin to skin when the baby is born.”
With Gentle C-Section, the goal is to return those experiences to the family as much as possible. A drape with a clear viewing section is used so the baby can be held up for the mother and family to see immediately after delivery. Mother and family can also touch the baby through the transparent window in the drape.
Faster skin-to-skin contact with mother and baby is also part of the process as is nursing soon after birth. Franciscan Health Michigan City’s Family Birth Center began offering Gentle C-Sections to eligible families in the fall of 2022.
“Instead of just looking at their partner or the light and hoping it’ll be done soon, they can put their minds at ease more quickly the minute they see their baby,” Dr. Thota said.
The quick skin-to-skin contact helps in bonding, stimulates colostrum flow, soothes the baby and regulates the baby’s heart rate and body temperature. This in turn supports a more successful post-partum and post-surgical recovery for the mother, Dr. Thota said.
More than 80 percent of women undergoing c-sections have opted for the experience since it was introduced at Franciscan Health Michigan City this past fall. Dr. Thota stressed that while Gentle C-Section is offered for every patient, it is not required. Those who do not opt for it get a traditional opaque drape.
As with all surgical procedures, sterile precautions are taken while performing the surgery.
Anna Delreal of LaPorte had a difficult time conceiving her first son and was thrilled when she got pregnant. When she learned during her 37-week checkup that her baby was breech, she was admitted to the hospital and had to have a c-section.
“I wanted to see him but I had to wait because it was a c-section,” Delreal said.
With Delreal’s second pregnancy, she had another c-section and had to wait to see and hold her son as well.
“My husband was there and got to take photos, but it took longer for me because of the c-section,” Delreal said.
When it came time to prepare for her daughter to be born, Delreal was offered the Gentle C-Section option.
“They asked me if I’d want to see her right away when she came out of the womb and I said, ‘Yes, absolutely. I would love it,’” Delreal said.
Delreal said when her daughter, Sofia Anguiano, was born on Nov. 11, 2022, it was “very emotional.”
“As soon as I saw her in the clear window, I wanted to reach out and touch her,” Delreal said. “It was beautiful.”
Delreal said she would encourage any woman who has to have a c-section to take advantage of the Gentle C-Section option.
“I would tell them to go for it,” she said. “There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing your baby’s face. That instant connection is beautiful. It was life-changing for me.”
Benea Coursel, 28, of Michigan City, delivered her daughter Harley on Oct. 18 via Gentle C-Section at the Family Birth Center. Coursel had a scheduled c-section because she had a c-section with her older daughter, Layla, a year prior.
“With my first, it took a while for her to start crying and to see her,” Coursel said.
When Dr. Thota asked if she wanted to opt for Gentle C-Section with baby Harley, Coursel didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“I was able to see her coming out of the womb,” Coursel said. “It fills those gaps you feel you missed out on with vaginal birth. It’s nice that you don’t get to miss out and it’s nice for both parents to have that immediate bonding.”
Dr. Thota said reducing stress and enhancing joy for families is what it is all about.
“At Franciscan Health, we make sure that every expectant mother feels safe, feels confident in our care and that they are heard,” Dr. Thota said. “We want to create beautiful memories and an experience that the families hold in their heart the rest of their lives.”
To learn more about Gentle C-Section, contact the Franciscan Health Michigan City Family Birth Center at (219) 877-1610 or Dr. Thota’s office at (219) 861-8785. Click here for a virtual tour of the Franciscan Health Michigan City Family Birth Center.