What is a Gentle C Section? The Compassionate Alternative Transforming Birth Stories

what is a gentle c section
Picture of Bere Horthy

Bere Horthy

Doula & Registered Nurse

Life has a way of keeping us on our toes, doesn’t it? 

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, something new comes along to keep things interesting. 

When it comes to giving birth, it’s the same story.

There’s an ocean of information out there, and navigating through it can feel like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube in the dark. 

But, it’s crucial to understand the different birth options available because, let’s face it, this is one event you want to feel as prepared as possible What is a gentle c section? 

Just like fashion and technology, even cesarean sections have seen their share of evolution, the latest entrant being the gentle c section. 

Grab your hot cup of tea, and let’s dive in.

gentle cesarian skin to skin

Understanding cesarean sections

In the simplest terms, a cesarean section, or c section, is a surgical procedure to deliver one or more babies. 

It’s like using the emergency exit when the front door isn’t an option. 

Some of the reasons a c section might be necessary include complications during labour, the baby’s position, or health conditions affecting mum or bub.

Health conditions affecting the mother

Placenta previa 

This condition occurs when the placenta covers the cervix either partially or entirely, blocking the baby’s path to the birth canal.

Placental abruption

In this condition, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before or during labour, which can cut off the baby’s oxygen supply and cause severe bleeding in the mother.

Pre-eclampsia or eclampsia

These conditions are marked by high blood pressure and potential damage to other organs, most often the liver and kidneys. 

In severe cases or when the baby is in distress, an emergency c section might be the safest delivery option.


Certain infections, such as HIV or active genital herpes, can be transmitted to the baby during vaginal birth, so a c section may be recommended to prevent this.

Health conditions affecting the baby

Breech or transverse position

If the baby is not in the normal head-down position close to the due date or at the time of delivery, a c section might be the safest way to deliver.

Multiple pregnancy

In certain multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.), especially where the babies are not in a good position for vaginal delivery, a c section might be recommended.

Fetal distress

If the healthcare provider is concerned about the baby’s heart rate or if the baby isn’t getting enough oxygen and nutrients, a c section may be performed.

Cesarean sections are not an uncommon event. 

In the US, in 2021, 32.1% of births were cesarean deliveries. 

In Australia, in 2020, 37% of births were c sections. 

And In the UK, 34% of babies were born via c section at the beginning of 2022.

gentle c section mum pulling baby out

The emergence of the gentle c section

So, what is a gentle c section?

Or, as it’s sometimes called – ‘family-centred c section,’. 

Just to be clear, a gentle c section is still a major surgical procedure and the surgeon isn’t necessarily ‘more gentle’. 

It’s essentially a family-centred approach to the traditional cesarean. It’s a more relaxed, less ‘surgical’ experience that aims to make cesarean birth as close as possible to a natural physiological birth. 

The birth process has come a long way since the ‘lie back and think of England’ days. 

The gentle c section is one of those welcome shifts, as it aims to give more control and involvement back to the mother. 

It’s a great alternative when a vaginal birth is not possible.

Key differences between traditional and gentle c sections

Alright, let’s break down the key differences.

Traditional c section


In a traditional c section, a screen is put up so the mother cannot see the surgical procedure. 

The mother’s arms are sometimes restrained to prevent interference with the surgery, and the baby is cleaned and assessed by paediatricians before being shown to the mother.

Contact with baby

Immediate skin-to-skin contact is typically not possible. 

The baby is usually taken to a warmer immediately after birth for assessment.


The procedure is often seen as more clinical and less personal, with limited participation from the mother during the birth.

Gentle c section (a.k.a. ‘family-centered’ c section)


In a gentle c section, changes are made to allow the parents to be more involved in the birth. 

A clear or lowered drape can be used so that mothers can see their baby being born if they wish. Mothers usually have their arms free.

Contact with baby

The baby is placed on the mother’s chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact whenever possible, which can help regulate the baby’s body temperature and heart rate, stimulate breastfeeding, and promote bonding.


The whole process is designed to be less clinical and more personal, mimicking some aspects of vaginal birth. 

This includes dimming the lights and allowing the choice of music in the operating room.

Optimal cord clamping

Depending on the hospital’s policy and the baby’s health, there may be the option to delay clamping the umbilical cord. 

This allows more blood and essential nutrients to transfer from the placenta to the baby.

c-section skin to skin with mother
Source: Monet Nicole

The benefits of a gentle c section

Let’s jump right into the good stuff – the benefits.

For starters, a gentle c section is specifically designed to make the experience more personal and interactive for the mum. And trust me, the perks are worth talking about.

Physical benefits 

Immediately after birth, your precious bundle of joy is placed on your chest for some quality skin-to-skin contact. 

This isn’t just a warm and fuzzy moment; it’s science.

This early contact can help regulate the baby’s body temperature and heart rate. 

Plus, it’s believed to give a little boost to breastfeeding success.

Early skin-to-skin contact

Right after birth, the baby is placed on the mother’s chest, which helps initiate early skin-to-skin contact. 

This immediate contact helps regulate the baby’s body temperature, heart rate, and breathing.

It can also help the baby feel more secure and calm.

Breastfeeding benefits 

Early skin-to-skin contact has been shown to promote successful breastfeeding. 

This contact also encourages the release of hormones that help with milk production.

Lower risk of breathing problems 

Immediate skin-to-skin contact, optimal cord clamping and slower delivery of the baby’s body helping expel some fluid from the lungs.

These things may help reduce the risk of the baby having breathing issues, often seen in babies born by a traditional c section.

Faster recovery

In some cases, the mother may have a quicker recovery from a gentle c section. 

This is possibly due to the less clinical, more family-focused approach that can lead to a more positive overall birth experience.

Helps the uterus to contract 

This can reduce the risk of postpartum haemorrhage.

Transfer of beneficial bacteria

When the baby is placed on the mother’s skin, they are exposed to her skin microbiome, which can help colonise their own skin and gut with beneficial bacteria.

Reduction in crying

Babies who have skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth are typically calmer and cry less.

Stabilise baby’s blood sugar levels 

Skin-to-skin contact can help to stabilize a newborn’s blood sugar levels, which is especially important for babies who are at risk of hypoglycemia.

positive experience gentle c section
Source: Shutterstock

Emotional/psychological benefits 

Never underestimate the power of feeling involved. 

In a gentle c section, a clear drape can be used so mums can see their baby being born if they wish. 

This simple shift can make the experience feel less clinical and more, well, gentle. 

It’s like being upgraded from coach to first class but on the baby-delivery flight.

The increased involvement can lead to improved bonding and a more positive emotional experience overall.

Increased involvement and control

With a gentle c section, mothers can have more say in the birthing process, such as having a clear drape for visual contact or choosing to have optimal cord clamping.

This can help mothers feel more involved and less like they’re a piece of meat on a chopping board. 

Enhanced bonding

Immediate skin-to-skin contact, which is encouraged in a gentle c section, can help to initiate early bonding between mother and baby. 

This immediate contact can trigger the release of hormones like oxytocin, often called the “love hormone,” which facilitate a feeling of connection.

Positive birth experience 

Mothers might feel more positive about the birth experience, which could be particularly important for those who originally planned to have a natural vaginal birth but end up having to have a scheduled c section instead. 

With traditional c sections, mothers often come out feeling disappointed in themselves and traumatised by the system.

Reduced anxiety and stress 

The gentle c section process aims to provide a calm, relaxed environment for childbirth, which can potentially decrease anxiety and stress levels. 

Mothers are allowed to listen to their preferred music and the environment is kept as serene as possible, reducing the clinical feel of the operation theatre.

Improved self-esteem and confidence 

Mothers who have a gentle c section often report feeling a greater sense of achievement and satisfaction from their childbirth experience. 

This can lead to improved self-esteem and confidence, which is important for their new journey into parenthood.

Promotes psychological stability 

The initial skin-to-skin interaction aids in the baby’s psychological and emotional development, laying the groundwork for their future emotional responses.

Improved maternal instincts 

Mothers who engage in immediate skin-to-skin contact often report increased confidence in their maternal instincts. 

This can include recognising their baby’s needs and responding to their cues more intuitively.

Reduces the likelihood of postpartum depression

Some studies have suggested that immediate skin-to-skin contact can help in reducing the risk of postpartum depression, thanks to the oxytocin release promoting positive feelings and bonding.

looking through clear drape gentle c section
Source: Lindsey Eden

Possible concerns or limitations

Before we get too ahead of ourselves singing praises, let’s not forget that every coin has two sides. 

While the gentle c section has many benefits, it’s not without its potential drawbacks or limitations.

One of the potential concerns could be the clear surgical drape.

While some mums may appreciate seeing their baby being born, others may feel a bit squeamish about it – It’s okay; we’re not all Grey’s Anatomy material. 

Also, immediate skin-to-skin might not be possible in all situations, particularly if either the mum or baby requires immediate medical attention.

There’s also the reality that not all hospitals or doctors offer this option. 

And in some cases, such as emergency c sections or certain medical conditions, traditional c sections may still be the only or safer option. 

No two pregnancies are alike, so always remember to put safety first.

ask questions
Source: Shutterstock

How to advocate for a gentle c section

Now, if you’re reading this and thinking, “I want to have a gentle c section!” here’s some advice to help you advocate for it.

Firstly, do your homework. 

Be as informed as you can be about the process. 

Luckily, you’re already doing that – Good job!

In the quest for further information, look for resources from reputable healthcare sites, parental advice forums, or even social media groups. 

But be cautious and take things with a grain of salt. 

Internet parenting advice is a bit like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.

Secondly, discuss your birth plan openly with your healthcare provider or Doula

Remember, no question is a silly question. So, let your inquisitive flag fly. 

Ask about the benefits, risks, and whether they would recommend this for you. 

But keep in mind, not all health care providers know about gentle c sections.

And lastly, be persistent yet respectful. 

If a gentle c section is what you want (and it’s safe for you and your baby), don’t shy away from advocating for your birth plan. 

But remember, it’s a conversation with your healthcare provider about your rights but at the end of the day, if something actually goes wrong, they are the ones who know the best course of action.

And if it’s just all too much to get your head around finding more information, you can always ask your doula.

Hiring a birth doula is one of the best things you can do to make sure you are advocated for and have the experience you hoped for. 

They can not only help to educate you on your options, but your doula will be there supporting and encouraging you every step of the way.

Your journey is unique

I hope this has helped you understand more about what is a gentle c section. 

In the end, the journey to parenthood is like a roller coaster ride – it can be thrilling, sometimes scary, but always unforgettable. 

Whether it’s a vaginal birth, a traditional c section, or a gentle one, the endgame remains the same – bringing a beautiful new life into the world. 

Remember, no matter the path, the journey is beautiful and entirely yours. 

No matter how they make their grand entrance into the world, your little one won’t care about the details. 

To them, you’re just their superstar mum, the centre of their universe – and that, my dear readers, is the most beautiful thing of all.

Bere Horthy

As a doula and nurse, Bere's mission is to empower and educate women, families, and fellow doulas to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey.


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