Comfort and Coping in a Cesarean Birth
Whether you’re scheduling a Cesarean birth in advance or preparing in case of an unplanned Cesarean birth, we’re so glad you’re here. Preparing for a Cesarean birth can bring up a multitude of feelings: excitement at the prospect of meeting your baby, grief or acceptance for the loss of a birthing experience you might have pictured. Sometimes, our babies just need to be lifted into the world and no matter the reason we’d like to help you feel more comfortable during what can often be an intense and overwhelming experience.
As birth educators, doulas, and parents, we’ve curated a list of our favorite coping strategies for Cesarean birth. Below are breathing techniques, affirmations, mindfulness exercises, physical comfort measures and more.
Find Your Breath
Breathing through birth is not a woo-woo thing. Breathing deeply discourages the production of adrenaline, and adrenaline literally inhibits oxytocin – your love, relaxation, and bonding hormone. Breathing deeply allows the diaphragm to expand, helps your muscles relax, and allows for the production of more oxytocin which can help you feel safe. Breathing also sends your baby with oxygen (it’s funny how this is both obvious and so easy to forget). When we get scared or stressed and we tense up – we often hold our breath. This can cut off your oxygen supply to your baby, and can cause heart rate decelerations that can make any birth environment a little bit riskier.
In preparing for the birth itself, you want to make sure that you and your partner practice a variety of breathing techniques to utilize throughout the birth. We ask partners to practice prenatally because a partner acting as the alpha breather is a key Birthsmarter Partner Responsibility. Basically this means instead of partners saying, “Breathe! Remember to breathe…” and “Take a big breath” they will instead be much more helpfully practicing the breathing: setting the beat or acting as a metronome for the birth experience.
- Equal Breathing: Breathe in for 5 seconds. Breath out for 5 seconds.
- Belly Breathing: Inhale, feel the expansion of your belly. Exhale, feel the relaxation of your belly.
- Lip Flutters / Horse Breath
- Any sort of breath strategy that will help you find relaxation and release tension in your body.
- Note: Talking is breathing! You can talk or sing to your baby as your baby is being born or immediately after their birth. Wish your baby a Happy Birthday!
Claim a MantraMantras and affirmations can offer quite a few things for the birthing parent: a mindful focus, a pathway for breath, a confidence builder or a reminder to relax and soften.
- Let Go.
- Breathe In. Breathe Out.
- I am powerful.
- Soften, open.
- I am ready to meet my baby.
- Right here. Right now.
It is easy to become overwhelmed during a Cesarean birth. Mindfulness exercises can help you find focus. Below is one mindfulness exercise you can experiment with and here’s a full visualization you can practice on your own or access in our On-Demand class!TRY THIS:
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique
5 things you can see around you
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you are grateful for
Listen to Music
Create a playlist for your birth (or two or three so you can choose based on your mood!). Listening to music can help you stay present and positive as opposed to listening to the sounds of the operating room. What are your favorite songs? What songs inspire your favorite memories? What songs can you lose yourself in? What keeps you grounded? Once you have your playlists, listen to them with your partner and visualize yourselves in the birth room. If you have earbuds or headphones with a splitter you can listen to music together during the birth and have a shared experience. Maybe even choose a special song you want your baby to be born to, or have one written just for you.
Bring in Comforting Scents
You’re not going to bring a diffuser into the OR but having positive smells can help mitigate the sterility of the operating room and the smell of cauterizing. The easiest way to bring a familiar scent into the room is to have your partner or doula place a few drops of an essential oil on a cotton ball and place the cotton ball in the cuff of their sleeve. Then they can rub it under your nose anytime you need it during the birth. And, if it’s too much they can toss the cotton ball in the trash! Choose a scent you might like ahead of time. Lavender and peppermint are two of our favorites.
Physical Comfort Measures
If you are more of a tactile person, partners simply holding your hand or providing a gentle forehead massage can be a wonderful reminder that you’re not alone. Birthing parents can also hold a touch stone, rosary, mala, or worry beads.
Did we miss something? Please comment below with your best suggestions!
If you’re working through this list, it’s likely that you’ll be meeting your baby very soon. We’re so excited for you and would love to hear how it goes!