The mums who hand-deliver their own babies

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 Photo: Getty Images

When Sarah Toyer was pregnant for the fourth time, she was adamant about one thing: she wanted to help hand deliver her own baby.

The then mother-of-three had already had C-sections for her previous babies, Jay, 4, Ruby, 3 and Wyatt, 2.

After having her first three children, Sarah came across an article that talked about 'maternal assisted caesareans' – that is, mums who help pull out their babies during caesarean sections.

"When I saw that, I knew that's exactly what I wanted."

So the 24-year-old mum from the Gold Coast made her intentions very clear in her birth plan with her fourth baby.

"I wanted to feel more involved with my last child's birth. Knowing it would be my last chance I was so determined to deliver him and feel closer to a natural birth," she says.

On the day of her baby's birth, Sarah was thrilled when her plans came into fruition.

"The feeling of being able to see [baby Spencer] come out and reach down and pull him out myself was absolutely incredible.

"I was overwhelmed with excitement and couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I still get excited thinking about it now!"

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Allison Cummins and Kate Braye, spokespersons from the Australian College of Midwives, say that it's possible for mums to do it with just a little planning.

If a mother wants to assist in the delivery of her baby via C-section she needs to discuss this with her midwife and obstetrician before going into the procedure.

That's because they say it is "rare" for a mum to assist in their baby's caesarean birth, so many hospitals won't have a policy to guide them about the procedure.

But the procedure is safe, reassures obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Joseph Sgroi, from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG).

That is, when it's performed in a controlled environment where there is time to prepare properly beforehand. That preparation generally involves an alcohol rub to clean your hands, along with sterile gloves you will need to wear during the C-section.

These measures help minimise the risk of infection, says Dr Sgroi.

"It's important to remember that a caesarean section is a sterile surgical procedure," he adds.

Because you need time to prepare adequately before, Dr Sgroi says that mums can only help deliver their own babies during elective (planned) caesareans, as opposed to emergency procedures.

"In an emergency setting, the primary concern is to facilitate the birth of the baby quickly and efficiently. Hence the time needed to prepare the mother for assisting in the birth is generally not possible."

Of course, it's not just during a C-section that you can be 'hands on' in delivering your baby. Women who have vaginal births can also assist, says Dr Sgroi.

"Once the head and shoulders [of the baby] are out, the mother can gently place her hands in the armpits of the baby and birth the rest of the baby's body and bring the baby up on to their chest."

Kate and Allison say that when mums choose to help hand deliver their babies during vaginal births, it creates a "very special intimate moment".

If you're considering following in Sarah's footsteps and adding 'hand delivery' to your birth plan for your planned C-section, Sarah couldn't be more supportive.

"I wouldn't change a thing about Spencer's birth," she says.

"It was absolutely perfect."