CAESAREAN rates have reached an average of 25%, with some Irish hospitals seeing 39% of babies born in this way.

I’m not going to look at why this figure is so much higher than the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 10-15% because I’ll get angry, and I’m a bit too pregnant to get that het up right now. However, due to the high chance that an Irish woman will have a caesarean birth, here’s how to make it a gentle, positive, bonding birth experience: ¦

  1. Keep exercising, even if you know early in pregnancy that you’re having a caesarean birth. This is major surgery: the healthier you are, the more likely it is to go smoothly and you will recover quicker. Being fit really will pay dividends!
  2. Don’t ignore your pelvic floor. Your baby might be exiting another way, but doing pelvic floor exercises means better support as your bump grows and less likelihood of stress incontinence. 
  3. Practise relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises and positive affirmations. Knowing how to keep calm before, during and after surgery will make it a more positive experience.
  4. Try a bonding rainbow visualisation in theatre. Imagine a rainbow attached to you, travelling to your baby as he is brought into the world. If you and your baby have to be separated, this visualisation will keep you keep connected.
  5. Don’t relinquish all control — discuss your options. There is the possibility of delayed cord clamping, for a minute or two at least, as well as skin to skin immediately after birth. Dan Oakes of The Neighbourhood Midwives says: ‘The obstetrician can leave your baby on your chest. All the lovely stem cells from the cord help baby oxygenate better and benefit from skin-to-skin contact, listening to Mum’s heartbeat and feeling her warmth.’ 
  6. Consider vaginal seeding. The jury’s still out, but some early studies show that applying a swab of vaginal fluid (which has the mother’s microbiomes) to a newborn’s face, mouth and body may help to boost the immune system.
  7. See if your baby can stay with you in recovery. This might not be hospital policy, but it’s worth asking. If not, your partner might be able to keep up the skin-to-skin.
  8. Get breastfeeding support. ‘It is scientifically harder to breastfeed because milk is delayed,’ says midwife Dan. Do your research beforehand and have the lactation consultant’s mobile number — sometimes they are hard to get hold of.
  9. Get moving. ‘Get out of bed as soon as possible, and get that catheter out,’ says Dan. The more you push yourself, the quicker you will recover.

First published in the Irish Daily Mail Good Health section