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Caesarean Section: How to have a beautiful birth in the operating theatre

i Mar 18th 6 Comments by

Kindly shared with us by Alice B.

I have two beautiful framed photographs in my sitting room. Taken a few moments after birth, they show each of my daughters cuddled up on my chest, relaxed and happy in skin-to-skin contact. My husband and I look amazed, elated and like we just can’t believe our luck.

Looking at those precious pictures reminds me of two lovely labours and two beautiful births. I often wonder, though, what visitors think of them – in both, my husband is wearing a blue theatre hat and scrubs, and I have heart monitoring leads on my chest. Both my daughters were born by emergency caesarean section.

During both my pregnancies, I hoped for a relaxed, calm and intimate environment for labour, minimal medical intervention, immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth and early breastfeeding. Being the planning type, I gave some thought to how this could still happen if my babies needed extra help to make their entrance into the world – and particularly if this was in an operating theatre.

Caesareans can be elective (planned) or emergency. Many emergency caesareans are relatively unhurried and nearly all are done with a spinal block (numbing injection), or by adding extra numbing drugs to an epidural if one is already in place. A general anaesthetic (being put to sleep) is very rarely needed. In my case, daughter number 1 was beginning to get distressed and wasn’t going to come out any other way, but our progress towards theatre was fairly stately. Daughter number 2 was suddenly very distressed and stuck during the pushing stage and her caesarean needed to happen very quickly. However, for both births I was wide awake and very excited as I waited to meet my babies for the first time.

A gentle caesarean birth means your baby may begin to breastfeed while you are still on the operating table

A gentle caesarean birth means your baby may begin to breastfeed while you are still on the operating table

My husband had brought his ipod into theatre for each birth, so our girls were born to our choice of uplifting, joyful music. There were quite a few nurses, doctors and midwives present but, for us, this felt supporting and friendly (especially as they were enjoying our party playlist!). There was a real atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. I made sure that my gown was just draped across my chest so that it wouldn’t get in the way of skin-to-skin later. The lights were bright, but – particularly if you know that your baby will be born by a planned caesarean – you could ask the surgeon if they would be happy to have the lights dimmed. For the birth of daughter number 2, there were no drapes so I had a good view of her as she entered the world – you could also ask to have the position of the bed adjusted just before the surgeon begins to lift your baby out so that your head is slightly raised, giving a better view. Each time, the surgeon lifted our baby up without identifying her gender, so we had that wonderful first view and moment of discovery for ourselves.

Both our girls needed a quick check-up by the paediatricians in the corner of the theatre before being given to us but within a few minutes they were wrapped in a towel and handed to me for a skin-to-skin cuddle and lots of photos. At this point it didn’t matter to us where and how our babies had been born!

I breastfed both babies in the recovery room – an area adjoining the operating theatre where we were closely monitored for about the first hour. However if you wished and the situation allowed, your midwives could support you to give the first feed in theatre before the surgeons have even finished their work. After the dramatic entrance of daughter number 2 I sniffed lavender oil to help me relax. The arrival of daughter number 1 was celebrated with tea and chocolate! My lovely girls stayed cuddled close to me in bed, dressed in just a nappy, whilst we were taken to the ward.

Both my lovely, healthy babies were born by emergency caesarean section. Both had beautiful births. Looking at their birth pictures now, I feel truly blessed.

Some useful resources:

Every Bit As Magical
An article about a surgical technique providing gentle, gradual delivery in a planned caesarean.

“Birth skills” by Juju Sundin
An Australian book which I found invaluable during my labour with daughter number 2. It provides you with a whole repertoire of coping skills for managing contractions, and also gives information and birth stories about many different possible experiences during labour and childbirth, including caesarean. gives some really useful ideas for a caesarean birth plan, as well as details about vaginal birth after a previous caesarean (VBAC).

My local midwives offer a “birth reflections” service, which offers an unhurried appointment with a specially trained midwife to go through notes and discuss your previous birth or births – It might be helpful to find out whether something similar is available in your area.


  1. MomTFH
    July 13, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Hi, you have a share button, so I was hoping I could use this as an exarmple in a lecture I’m giving for my residency. Please let me know if it’s not ok.

  2. Rachel
    October 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Alice, this wonderful to read, and completely echoes my experience of childbirth. My son was born by unplanned (perhaps crash!) section after a 24hr labour & forceps. The experience left me exhausted, bemused & slightly disappointed – although I was able to breastfeed him in the recovery room, he was presented to me in the theatre wrapped in a towel with a hideous red, white & blue hat on his head! In contrast, the birth of my daughter by planned section was wonderful – my husband massaged my feet with essential oils while we waited, we slept, laughed & relaxed beforehand, we played our own choice of music in the theatre & the most magical bit was seeing the little ball of baby appear from around the operating screen & her being placed straight on my chest, screaming! My husband was able to tell me she was a girl & I believe this was as close to ‘natural’ birthing as I could get, and was a magical experience. We spent the rest of the day in skin to skin contact & she took to breastfeeding like a dream.

  3. Yoko
    April 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I think this is a very interesting idea. On the one hand, I agree with you that we don’t want to move into an arena where the false idea is pleyad out that cesarean births are a great, safe, and now (new! improved!) humane way that many women should choose (or be forced/coerced into unnecessarily) now that they are more friendly to the family.On the other hand, I don’t think you can discount the psychological benefits of this type of a cesarean birth, especially if paired with breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact soon after birth. There are plenty of scenarios where this would be immensely helpful the family that, after very good informed choice, elects for a repeat cesarean instead of a VBAC or HBAC, breech births where a vaginal trial of labor is either not permitted or desired, twins, etc. Not to mention that there are many times that a cesarean birth is necessary, but not an emergent situation (of course I’m talking here about truly necessary cesareans, not CPD or failure to progress ). Any sort of increased participation from the parents would do a world of good psychologically, and may (given the right care provider) encourage folks to try for a VBAC the next time around with good memories of their first birth.

  4. Sarah Buchanan
    March 19, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Dear Alice, an inspiring story – thank you very much. I often talk to my clients about how they still have options if an operation is needed. This will be a great reference article for them.

    I just wanted to mention that I believe there are three types of caesarean section; elective, unplanned and crash (this is the emergency level).


  5. BeckyC
    March 18, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Great to read such a positive reflection on caesarean birth. Labours don’t always turn out the way you planned the health of mum and baby is the most important thing – thank goodness for the possibility of c-section which saves the lives of countless mothers and babies every day.

    • Bekzhan
      April 24, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      to my partner that she just was calnilg by and wanted to check in and see how mother and baby were doing. This seems unusual.Whatever happened, things happened the way that they did, simple as, and nothing can be changed about that. I am not looking to apportion blame now. However I do feel that perhaps we may have resisted consenting to as many check ups, internal examinations etc as we did.Anyway, you seem to be coming from an honourable place, and my understanding is that you possess a wealth of experiential learning that my partner and I could draw from. Your site is definitely needed, is a valuable information and experience sharing resource. I don`t get to a computer much but I intend to support your site. Warmly,Peter


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