Gentle Cesareans: A Modern Spin on the C-Section

Babies and Bumps

February 18, 2024

When you’re gearing up for childbirth, you’re faced with a barrage of decisions. The tricky part? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and everyone seems to have an opinion. Fully understanding your options is the first step to being confident in your decisions and doing what’s best for you, your baby, and your family.

Cesareans are definitely one of those things that come with lots of opinions and judgements. Thought of as everything from the “easy way out” to something that should be avoided at all costs, they’ve become more common over time and your options for the procedure have grown. According to the National Library of Medicine, in 1970, cesarean rates were around 5%, but by 1988, they shot up to 24.7%. Now, they’re hovering around 22%, partly because more moms are giving birth vaginally after having a cesarean. And more recently, the gentle cesarean – or “family centered” cesarean – has emerged to provide a surgical birth that feels less like an operation and more like, well, birth.

What are gentle cesareans?

It all started with a simple question: if vaginal births can have cozy lighting, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and an overall chill vibe, why can’t cesareans? Turns out, they can. A gentle cesarean involves tweaking the standard procedure to create an environment that fosters bonding and connection, just like with a vaginal delivery.

What makes them gentle?

  • Softened Environment: What a difference mood lighting and your favorite chill-out tracks playing in the background can make. After all, it’s possible for an operating room to be both serene and functional.
  • Clear or Lowered Drapes: Instead of a big ol’ drape blocking your view, a clear drape can be used, or the drape can be lowered at the moment of birth. This allows you to witness the first breaths and moments of your baby’s life, giving you an enduring memory of their birth.
  • Immediate Skin-to-Skin Contact: Where traditional cesareans often delay your first cuddle, gentle cesareans prioritize immediate skin-to-skin contact. This isn’t just about warming your heart; it’s about literally warming your baby and kicking off breastfeeding with the golden hour.
  • Reduced Separation: Effort is made to keep you and your baby together as much as possible right from the start, minimizing any unnecessary separation.

What are the benefits?

  • Improved Bonding: Immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth enhances the emotional connection between mom and baby, fostering a strong bond right from the start.
  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety: A less clinical and more personalized birth environment reduces stress for both mom and baby, making the birth experience calmer and more positive.
  • Easier Initiation of Breastfeeding: Early skin-to-skin contact encourages successful breastfeeding initiation, benefiting both mom’s recovery and baby’s nutrition.
  • Stabilized Vital Signs for Baby: The close contact helps regulate the baby’s heart rate, temperature, and breathing, while also supporting mom’s emotional well-being and recovery.
  • Enhanced Immune System for Baby: Early breastfeeding aids in the development of baby’s immune system, while the positive emotional state supports mom’s recovery.
  • Increased Overall Satisfaction: The involvement of mom in the birthing process and the immediate bonding with baby can lead to increased satisfaction with the birth experience.
  • Smoother Transition for Baby: The gentle approach to cesarean delivery helps baby adjust more smoothly to life outside the womb, mirroring some aspects of vaginal birth.
  • Stronger Parent-Child Connection: This approach fosters a deep emotional connection not just between mom and baby, but also with the partner or support person, enriching the family bonding experience from the very beginning.

How Do I Make My Preference Known?

Start by chatting with your healthcare team early on. Not all hospitals and doctors offer gentle cesareans, so you might need to do a bit of digging to find one that does. Put together a birth plan that lays out your gentle cesarean preferences loud and clear. Even if you’re not planning for a cesarean from the get-go, having your wishes known can make things smoother if plans change.

That said, sometimes things don’t go as expected. If your birth needs to deviate from the plan for safety, know that you may have to be flexible. The end goal is always a healthy baby and mom.

Special Considerations

  • Repeat Cesareans: Women who have had previous cesareans can still benefit from the gentle approach in subsequent births, as it can offer a more positive experience each time.
  • Unplanned or Emergency Cesareans: Even in situations where a cesarean is not planned, incorporating elements of the gentle approach can provide some of its benefits. Communicating preferences for a gentle cesarean, if possible, is beneficial regardless of how the birth unfolds.


On a personal note, I wish gentle cesareans were a thing in 2012 when I had my son! It’s a day I’ll obviously never forget – the day I became a mom and met my first born. But when I think about how separate we were, how long we had to wait to breastfeed, how disconnected from the process I felt, I believe our journey together would have started much more smoothly. So if the idea of a gentle cesarean piques your interest, be sure to talk it through with your OB or midwife!

Founder & President, Babies & Bumps

Monica Infante

Monica founded Babies & Bumps in 2013 to inform and empower new and soon-to-be parents. Over the past decade, B&B’s footprint has grown to include 13 cities – today, she and her team plan, promote, and produce more in-person maternity events than any other series in the U.S. Babies & Bumps also offers digital resources and hosts online events throughout the year to serve parents everywhere. She lives in Rochester, NY with her husband and two children.

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