'Natural caesareans' give control back to mums, experts say

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There's nothing natural about a caesarean but efforts to make the delivery as close to a vaginal birth as possible is giving control back to mothers.

"Natural caesareans" in which women enjoy enhanced contact with the baby and even a hands-on role in the delivery - are becoming increasingly popular and should be encouraged as the number of women medically required to have a caesarean section increases, says UK expert Dr Felicity Plaat.

Dr Plaat, a consultant anaesthetist at Imperial College Healthcare in London, told the Euronaethesia congress in Geneva that the safe technique is feasible, and it would be "unethical" to deny women the option.

Increased breastfeeding rates, she says, is also associated with the technique, although more evidence is needed.

"I believe natural CS makes the experience of birth much more satisfying for the increasing number of women who require CS," Dr Platt said.

"As an anaethetist I need to given an anaesthetic that allows mum to freely interact with her baby immediately, whilst ensuring both are safe," explained Dr Plaat.

For most obstetricians a natural caesarean is when the mum is semi-pushing, or using abdominal pressure, to help deliver the baby slowly.

In some cases the mother can even scrub up like a surgeon and use their own hands to pull out the baby from their abdomen.

The surgical screen is also down to allow both parents to see the birth.


One concern is that natural caesareans may encourage more women to opt for a caesarean birth, but Dr Plaat argues there is no evidence to suggest this is the case.

"Denying women this in order to discourage them from considering this mode of delivery is in my personal opinion, completely unethical," she said.

Australian obstetrician Dr Will Milford, Director of Kindred Midwifery, Obstetrics & Gynaecology and member of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says pregnant women can experience a complete loss of control when told they require a caesarean.

He says a natural caesarean makes a "necessary procedure better".

But it doesn't remove the big negative associated with having a caesarean section - and that is a longer recovery.

"For those women who have a caesarean section it is a very medicalised surgical way of having a baby and so I think trying to reduce that and making it a more natural procedure, if you like, even though it is conceptually a superficial way of doing that certainly does make it better for the families involved," Dr Milford said.

Dr Milford also believes most women would rather choose a vaginal birth over a caesarean if they could.

"Even with making it nicer and more accessible it's probably not a significant enough change that's going to make people request to have a caesarean section," he said.