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Skin-to-skin cesarean sections preferred over those without skin-to-skin

August 31, 2021

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A recently published study shows women prefer having skin-to-skin contact with their infant immediately after delivering by cesarean section.

Ten women at Sunnybrook were interviewed to describe their experience of a cesarean section with and without skin-to-skin contact. The women all had a history of a previous delivery without skin-to-skin.

“Roughly one third of all deliveries in Canada are by cesarean section, motivating us to learn more about the firsthand experiences of women,” says Dr. Clea Machold, family physician and lead author of the study published in CMAJ Open. “Creating a more patient-centered environment, by placing the infant on the mother’s chest immediately following a cesarean delivery, has significant benefits.”

Improved connection and intimacy with their infant emerged as a benefit, with women saying they felt their skin-to-skin cesarean section replicated a vaginal birth as closely as possible. Holding, comforting and starting breastfeeding also offered a distraction from the surgical procedure, with some women reporting less physical pain.

Shannon Connors delivered her third baby with the skin-to-skin approach in 2013 after two previous cesarean sections. “I felt much more connected to my baby and was able to start bonding with him right away,” says Shannon. “Being able to hold my baby, at my chest, immediately after he was born was the best moment of all three birth experiences. It felt the way birth is supposed to be, the way I’d always imagined it.”

Women said they felt a sense of empowerment with their skin-to-skin delivery since it allowed them to participate more actively in their birth, in addition to feeling practically and emotionally supported by their families and the medical team.

“We learned that almost all of the women felt some guilt or shame for having a cesarean section, regardless of the clinical reason,” adds Dr. Machold. “Incorporating skin-to-skin helped bolster confidence in those important early moments of parenthood.”

Dr. Machold cautions that the approach requires more resources than a traditional operating room, and cannot be used when separation of mother and infant is medically necessary.

Learn more about skin-to-skin »