Nurses invent skin to skin c-section drape

How the baby is passed to the mother immediately after the birth.
How the baby is passed to the mother immediately after the birth.  

The determination of three US nurses to provide immediate skin to skin contact to mothers delivering their babies by caesarean section has led to the invention of a unique surgical drape.

"We were doing skin-to-skin (with vaginal deliveries) and seeing how empowering that was to mothers," one of the nurses Deborah Burbic told the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper.

"When mum gets to hold that baby for the first time on her chest, it is just unbelievable, that experience.

The Skin to Skin C-Section Drape and its creators, Kimberly Jarrelle and Jess Niccoli.
The Skin to Skin C-Section Drape and its creators, Kimberly Jarrelle and Jess Niccoli. Photo: Supplied

"We were going, 'How could we make this happen in the operating room?'"

The answer, after many hours work and research by Burbic and fellow registered nurses Kimberly Jarrelle and Jess Niccoli, was the Skin to Skin C-Section Drape.

Usually during a c-section delivery a surgical drape blocks a mother's view of her baby being born. 

This drape is needed to maintain the sterility of the surgical site during the operation.

Even with a straight forward procedure it can be anywhere from five to 30 minutes before a mother gets to hold her baby and the infant is usually wrapped.

The Skin to Skin drape features a flap which opens like a window and allows the doctor to pass the baby directly through to the mother following delivery.

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The flap then is closed and the sterility of the surgical site is maintained as the doctor completes the final stages of the procedure.

The three nurses started working on the concept for the Skin to Skin Drape three years ago and created 50 prototypes out of disused surgical drapes.

"We used (duct) tape and sewing machines. We took them over to Kim's house and worked on her dining room table," Niccoli told the newspaper.

The surgery site is kept sterile with the help of the drape.
The surgery site is kept sterile with the help of the drape.  

"We went through about 50 different prototypes," Jarrelle added. "We'd do it, then we'd send it back to the company we contracted with.

"One of the neat things, too, you can say 'Look mum, look at your baby coming through that portal.' She can see and actually be a part of it."

The drape is rated as the highest quality possible in terms of thickness, fluid resistance and other factors.

"Our drape is four, the strongest on all the areas that are flat. Then the part that goes up between anaesthesia has a rating of a three, because you don't need quite as heavy a barrier," Niccoli said.

Once the idea was developed, the nurses hired a lawyer to research patents.

The friends call their company Clever Medical and have presented the concept to the US national conference of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.​

Studies show there are many benefits of immediate skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn baby. Those benefits include increased rates of  breastfeeding success and regulation of the newborn's breathing and body temperature.

"Women today want their birth the way they want it," Burbic told the newspaper. "A C-section is a bump in the road for some people.

"For some reason, they cannot have a baby vaginally. They have to have a C-section and they get all down in the dumps, because they know that this big drape comes up, they don't get to see their baby being born like a vaginal delivery.

"This is one way we can break that barrier."