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'Gentle C-section' aims to support mother-baby bonding

Expert weighs in on gentle c-sections.

Expert weighs in on gentle c-sections. Credit: Fotolia

Q. What is a "gentle C-section"?

A. The term was popularized by doctors at the Center for Labor and Birth at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who wanted to make the C-section experience more like the one moms have with a standard delivery. "It's not a surgical technique, it's more of an approach or a mindset," explains Dr. Ira Jaffe, an obstetrician and gynecologist who grew up in New Hyde Park and is now an assistant clinical professor at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. It's meant to support the natural bonding of a mother and baby at the time of birth, he says.

During the usual C-section, an opaque drape is erected between the woman's head and her torso, protecting the baby from germs but also blocking the mother's view of the surgical proceedings. With a gentle C-section, the opaque drape can be dropped at the time the baby emerges, leaving a transparent shield so that Mom can witness the birth, Jaffe says.

Then, mother-baby bonding is immediately encouraged, he says. "In a normal C-section, what often occurs is that the baby is whisked away," Jaffe says, to be weighed and cleaned. During a "gentle" procedure, the baby is placed on the mother's chest first for skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible. The umbilical cord also isn't immediately clamped and cut. It's left for two to five minutes so the baby gets the most blood possible, Jaffe says.

"Right now, it's still a minority of obstetricians in the region who have embraced the concept," Jaffe says. Women interested in the option should discuss it with their doctors during prenatal appointments, he says.

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