Skin-to-skin C-sections promote health, bonding
An innovative way of delivering babies by Caesarean section, emphasizing skin-to-skin contact and bonding between mother and baby, is being led in Canada by physicians at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
“We are using the technique of skin-to-skin Caesarean sections because the benefits of skin to skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth are clear. This is done with babies born vaginally, and now we are bringing this practice to babies born by Caesarean section,” says Dr. Jon Barrett, Chief, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Director, Women & Babies Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute.
Babies born by Caesarean are typically given to their mothers three to five minutes after the birth, after being cleaned off and receiving routine care. In a skin-to-skin C-section, the baby is put directly on the mother’s upper abdomen, and the medical team pushes the baby underneath the drape separating the medical team from the mother’s upper body. The baby then settles directly on the mother’s bare chest.
“Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth helps babies regulate their temperature and glucose levels. It promotes bonding, and babies often initiate breastfeeding on their own from that position as well,” says Dr. Barrett, who is also Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Toronto. Depending on the circumstances, the baby stays on the mother’s chest from ten to twenty minutes following the birth.
Dr. Barrett emphasizes that skin-to-skin C-section is not possible in every birth. “It may not be indicated even in low-risk deliveries, and is not appropriate for emergency C-sections. The obstetrician needs to be experienced, and the procedure does require an extra member of the medical staff to be in the operating room,” he says.
Last month, Brandon Gill New gave birth via a medically necessary, skin-to-skin C-section, becoming just the second mother to deliver her baby using this technique at Sunnybrook. “It was a really amazing experience to be able to have a C-section and then have your baby come right on top of you, and transition into the world in such a peaceful way,” she says.
Dr. Barrett is now studying skin-to-skin C-sections, the first time this technique has been studied in Canada. “C-section rates are between 25 to 30% of all births. If we’re delivering one third of our babies by Caesarean, we should look at ways to see if we can mimic the normal birth process,” he says.