Family-Centered Cesareans

by Shannon Morber


Disclaimer: Before venturing into the arena of Family-Centered Cesareans, I feel the need to address something first…

It’s no secret that just about any subject related to mothering can be a “hot button” topic, which includes cesarean births. This is an unfortunate reality to the parenting realm in the 21st century. The upside of hot button topics is that it creates a forum and space to dialogue about different viewpoints and share information. It can provide opportunities for each of us to consider new perspectives, potentially triggering expanded ways of thinking and self-growth. The downside? These topics can be an avenue for division, judgment, the shame & blame game and hurt feelings.

We here at Gentle Transitions would like to be unequivocal in communicating our feelings about birth…there is NO one “right” way to birth. There is no greater or lesser way; there is no “failing”. There is only birth. According to Merriam-Webster, birth is “the act or process of bringing forth young from the womb”. So, no matter how your young emerged from your body, it is a birth. It is YOUR birth, for better or worse. Talk about your experience with pride or if needed, seek out the help & resources you need to heal from it. If you did have a cesarean and you have trauma concerning that birth, connect with other mothers who have been there too. And don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any support you might need! We are here to walk alongside you on your path, witness your journey and encourage you every step of the way.


Okay, off we go now! 🙂 When mothers have a cesarean birth, they have two options for future births: planning a Family-Centered Cesarean (or sometimes referred to as a “gentle cesarean”) or planning a Vaginal Birth After a Cesarean (VBAC). In this post, I will be focusing solely on the former option for the time being.

In 2004, I had a cesarean birth with my oldest son. It was a positive experience in that I got to meet the little man who first made me a mom. However, it was a negative experience in that I felt ignored, disrespected and bullied by my healthcare provider and hospital staff throughout my labor process, which ultimate led to an unnecessary cesarean (in my opinion). While I did go on to have a VBAC in 2006, should a repeat cesarean ever be in my future, I would absolutely utilize options to make it more family-centered than my first!

You may be asking: What the heck is a Family-Centered, or gentle, cesarean? To familiarize yourself, view this brief video about how one hospital defines it and is making changes for expectant families. NPR also did a great piece on the topic, highlighting the benefits of it and one mother’s personal experience. And lastly, another Huffington Post author shares the top 5 most positive aspects in her family-centered cesarean birth.

What choices does a mother have to help make a cesarean more family-centered?

Now that you know what a Family-Centered Cesarean is, or what it might look like, let’s discuss the related options. The graphic below covers the vast array of choices you have to tailor your cesarean birth, according to your desires. From surgery preparation all the way through postpartum, you have a voice and can use it to help achieve the birth you’d like to have.15994864_1176555299108395_4406328689558233219_o

What steps can a parent take to implement a Family-Centered Cesarean?

1) Know your options.
Familiarize yourself with how other families have opted to have a family-centered cesarean. Ask questions & read books. Talk to other women in your community or online who have had one. If this is your first cesarean, have an idea of what to expect before, during and after the surgery. Check out the fabulous resources at ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and learn tips on recovering from a cesarean birth.
2) Stay in positive & continuous dialogue with your healthcare provider.
Inquire about your healthcare provider’s personal experience with a Family-Centered Cesarean and get a feel for their comfort level. If your provider seems uncomfortable or indicates he/she would rather not deviate too far from the standard cesarean norm, find another one who will actively work with you to achieve your birth goals. Some items in a Family-Centered Cesarean may require extra time and planning ahead (e.g. obtaining a clear surgical drape, extra nurse staffing assigned to be with the baby in the OR, etc.), so be mindful of earlier preparation and
3) Outline your preferences & choices into a formal birth plan.
Once you have educated yourself on your options and made your choices, it is always a good idea to let your healthcare providers and birth team know your preferences. That way, there is no room for confusion or miscommunication. You will feel more comfortable and confident heading into your birth experience with the peace of knowing those around you are all on the same page. Not sure what to include or wording to use? Check out this sample from Birth Without Fear.

Finally, remember that this lovely day is when you get to meet your sweet babe face-to-face. Drink in your baby’s features, smell their little heads to your heart’s content, sit in awe at the wonder of human reproduction and its results. Keep yourself as comfortable as you can. (Pain medication is necessary when recovering from major surgery; your body will thank you.) Go slowly in the days and weeks ahead. Ask for and accept help whenever it comes. Despite having a surgical birth that probably involves a longer recovery, it is still possible to have a gentle transition into your family life. May your birthing day truly be a day you look on with joy and love.