Far from being a harmless act, a caesarean section is often difficult to apprehend. It is all the more difficult when you have been preparing for a vaginal delivery throughout your pregnancy and the caesarean arrives as an emergency. Stress, doubts, the baby’s suffering… many questions surround the caesarean and its consequences on the baby’s feelings. Does the baby suffer during the caesarean section? What consequences does this surgical act have on the child and the mother? And how does the baby recover from this disrupted birth?
How does the baby experience the caesarean birth?
Childbirth is a natural process that takes place when the baby is ready to come out. But sometimes nature needs a little help and a caesarean section is necessary to avoid endangering the mother or her baby. In a natural birth, the baby is protected by hormones and cradled by contractions to ensure a smooth birth. For a caesarean delivery, the conditions are quite different, and baby and mother experience great emotions, between the stress of the operation, the shock of the birth without going through the contractions… If the birth does not create any pain or suffering for your baby, a caesarean section is not without consequences.
Scheduled or emergency caesarean: two different experiences for baby
A scheduled caesarean is always planned a fortnight before the due date to prevent labour from starting on its own. It is very common for the baby to be born with slight respiratory distress. This is because labour usually only starts when the baby is ready, and in particular when his lungs are mature enough to take his first breath naturally. In addition, the contractions help the baby to evacuate the amniotic fluid from the lungs so that this first natural breath can be taken more easily. Another consequence of a caesarean section is that without natural labour, the baby does not prepare for birth. It is extracted from the uterus very quickly and arrives in full light in a surgical unit where the temperature is often quite cool. The birth of a baby in these conditions can be traumatic.
For an emergency caesarean section, the conditions are quite different. The baby is ready to come out, it goes into labour and undergoes the contractions and the shot of hormones necessary for expulsion, but it is stopped dead in its tracks and finds itself outside in a few minutes. If in this case his lungs are in principle perfectly mature, the stress generated by the emergency situation is experienced with full force by both mother and baby.
Although a caesarean section does not create pain or suffering for the baby, it is still a surgical procedure that can be traumatic. Whether the caesarean section is planned or carried out as an emergency, it is not always easy to accept this act in complete serenity, and the baby feels all the emotions and stress of the mother. Skin-to-skin contact then takes on its full meaning. Not having received all the natural oxytocin during labour, the mother-child bond can also be affected. Here again, skin-to-skin contact is essential to regain this bond and establish the natural attachment as quickly as possible, if possible as soon as the baby leaves the operating theatre, otherwise by calling on the father! Finally, even if babies have a great capacity for resilience, a few osteopathy sessions can be very beneficial for both mother and baby to release tension.
Although a caesarean section does not involve pain or suffering for the baby, it is not without consequences. The baby experiences a stressful time as does the mother and the strong bonding that occurs during a natural birth must be established in a different way immediately after the operation.
Mum and baby must then find all the resources to start a process of resilience and get to know each other.