The bond between a mother and her baby is a special thing. That's why the medical team at MU Health Care strives to implement a range of practices that ensure best starts for mothers and their babies. The gentle C-section is one of these practices.
Courtney Barnes, MD, an obstetrician at MU Health Care, said much of what differentiates a gentle C-section from the standard procedure are environmental considerations.
"It includes dimmer lighting, a quieter environment and music of the patient's choice," Barnes said.
But the most notable difference is what's sometimes referred to as the peek-a-boo drape. During a C-section, a curtain-like drape is used to create a sterile area for the surgery to take place. Although having the drape in place lowers the risk for infection, many mothers feel disconnected from the births of their babies.
However, the peek-a-boo drape has a flap that can be fastened down with Velcro to reveal a window, which allows the mother to witness the birth of her child.
"It's exciting for our patients. We have moms who end up having an unplanned C-section with their first delivery who now get to look forward to observing the birth of their baby for their next C-section. This gives more of a natural birth experience to them," Barnes said.
After a quick towel off, baby is immediately given to mom for some bonding time. Meanwhile, the obstetrician covers the clear partition and completes the surgery.
MU Health Care introduced the gentle C-section in 2015 as it pursued its Baby Friendly designation, a recognition bestowed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) that honors excellence in providing education and encouragement for breastfeeding.
Barnes said the first hour of a baby's life often is referred to as "the golden hour." The baby is active and alert, looking around at the world outside the womb and perhaps exploring the possibility of a warm meal from mom.
Delaying some routine care such as general assessments and bathing allows mom and baby the opportunity for immediate skin-to-skin contact, which yields benefits including stabilized blood sugar for baby, decreased anxiety for mom and greater success in breastfeeding.
"With our Baby Friendly designation, part of the holistic picture of the care we are providing really involves the care of the couplet - the mom and baby as a unit. What we want to do is promote initial bonding and initial feeding," Barnes said. "That's the gold standard."