Does a caesarean affect the way we bond with our babies?

It is often reported in the media that having a caesarean affects a mother’s ability to bond with her baby.

However, what is frequently missed in such statements is that research actually suggests it is the circumstances around the birth not the caesarean itself which can lead to problems. In fact planned caesareans have a better psychological outcome for women than instrumental vaginal births and unplanned caesareans.

It seems where bonding is affected, negative thoughts and feelings about the birth itself, rather than the practicalities of the caesarean, play a significant role. The following issues are thought to be particularly influencial:

It is important to understand that increased levels of stress may delay milk coming in, for some women and that for some this can have a knock on affect on how they perceive their bond developing, but for many there is no impact at all.

What is very clear is ANY birth perceived by mum to be traumatic can produce such an outcome.

It is simply not true that it will be impossible to look after your baby after a caesarean. You will be encouraged to pick up your baby and carry them as soon as you are out of bed (and you are expected to be up and walking within 12 hours of a caesarean). Unless you or baby are ill there is no reason why your baby cannot be in your arms or next to you for the whole period prior to getting out of bed. Discomfort from little kicking feet over the incision area can be easily managed by resting baby on a small pillow when breastfeeding (sitting or lying) and this does not prevent skin-to-skin contact. Proactive, positive support from midwives should mean that your experience of your baby in the hours following surgery should be no different from that of any other mother.

Such sweeping statements from health care professionals and the media lead to misunderstandings and cause women to fear caesareans, setting them up for difficulties post-operatively. It is such unnecessary negativity and fear mongering that contributed to my desire to write Caesarean Birth: A positive approach to preparation and recovery. I wanted to improve women’s understanding of caesarean birth so it is more likely to be viewed purely as another way baby arrives and not something to be feared. Unfortunately antenatal education rarely talks about caesarean birth in anything like a balanced and informative manner so many women go into their birth knowing next to nothing about caesareans.

Ways to improve your bonding experience:

  • Skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible, in theatre if you and baby are both well enough (put your gown on backwards before you go in so it opens at the front)
  • Focusing on feeding, with full eye contact and skin-to-skin contact ensures valuable one to one time with your baby is protected
  • Re-visit your birth and where necessary, seek support in coming to terms with any negatives thoughts about the birth itself
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