Cesarean Section: Area hospital improves bonding through new technique

Published: Apr. 11, 2017 at 1:58 PM EDT
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Most parents will tell you that having a baby is one of the special times in a couple's life.

You spend nine months planning for the big day your little one will enter the world.

Most moms hope to give birth naturally, but sometimes complications arise and a cesarean section is necessary, meaning that the first glimpse of your child entering the world is delayed.

Now, Saint Joseph Health System is using a new technique that gives parents the option of seeing their newborn being delivered by C-section.

When each of my three sons was born more than two decades ago, health issues meant C-sections for all three. And while I was blessed they were all healthy, I was behind the traditional surgical drape, which meant I couldn't see them immediately. It may not sound like a big deal, but any new mom will tell you it is.

Believe it or not, all these years later, most women undergoing C-sections are still behind that giant surgical drape, which serves as a sterile barrier but also blocks the view of their baby entering the world.

St. Joseph Health System's Plymouth Medical Center changed all that last August, explains Katie Johnston, director of OB in Plymouth. "We recognize in the community the need to make C-sections more family-centered."

So how did they do it? Lindsey Danford, the hospital's OB educator and a mom herself, brought the idea of using both a blue and clear drape. "With a C-section, sometimes you feel like you're kind of a bystander and not part of the experience, but with a clear drape you are able to see."

Dr. Noreen Faulkner, an obstetrician/gynecologist, told us about the simple fix. "When everything is going smoothly after we've started the C-section and it's time to deliver the baby, we can undo the Velcro, and actually the anesthesia provider who is standing at the head does that. We undo this and undo this and the drape drops down, and then the mom can see over the drape."

Little did Lindsey know that when she brought the idea to St. Joe, her youngest son Finley would be born by C-section just two months later. After two normal deliveries, she says it made all the difference in the world being able to see Finley come into the world. "I knew what I would be missing out by not seeing Finley born. So with the clear drape I was able to see him emerge and his wiggles and his first cries, who'd he look like, did he have hair, how big would he be?"

Bill, Finley's dad, agrees the clear drape made the birth experience much more personal. "It was a lot different, just the fact of seeing the birth, seeing Finley come out in the doctor's hands, and like Lindsey said earlier, his first smile, his cry, the moment he's seen the light."

Dr. Faulkner says it has been a win-win for the whole OB team. "Without the clear part, we would deliver the baby and I would try to hold the baby up over the drape for the mom to see. It's incredible actually. The first time I did it I couldn't believe how different it was for the patient." I asked about the bonding experience, to which Dr. Faulkner replied, "Exactly, and we really encourage that here."

While this simple technique has made a tremendous difference in the way many moms view C-sections, Katie, the OB director, says safety is always number one. "Ninety-nine percent of the time everything is great and we can bring down that curtain and have that delivery, but everyone in the room has that option to say, 'I'm not sure this is safe at this moment,' and of course we are always going to take the safest route."

It's still major surgery, but it makes the birth experience as special as possible, Dr. Faulkner explains, even allowing mom to touch the baby through the drape immediately after birth. "They can experience that bonding and the dad can too."

Katie agrees it makes for happy campers. "I think we have happy patients, happy providers."

Lindsey and Bill wouldn't have had it any other way. Lindsey says, "I would absolutely recommend it, it was a very memorable time seeing that first wiggle, the first movement, feeling that you actually see the baby and hear the baby cry and seeing him come out." Bill added, "To see a birth is amazing in itself."

Instead of feeling cheated, parents are thrilled that -- despite major surgery -- you don't have to miss that first glimpse of your little bundle of joy.

This new technique was first put to use in Plymouth, and now the Plymouth hospital and Saint Joe in Mishawaka are the only area hospitals offering the two-barrier system.

If you're pregnant, Dr. Faulkner suggests you talk to your doctor before delivery to see if this is an option for you should the need for a C-section arise.