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New technique offers moms a more meaningful birth experience

Patient Spotlight May 06, 2016 By Main Line Health

For Bridget Kavitski of Media, the only thing as exciting as being pregnant with her first child was imagining how her baby would be born. It went this way: Kavitski, 28, would have a natural delivery, seeing the birth. Almost immediately, her newborn would be placed on her chest for skin-to-skin contact.

Unfortunately for Kavitski and her husband, Jake, their idealized birth story was not meant to be. Instead, medical complications forced an emergency cesarean section (C-section). Nineteen months later, the Kavitskis had a second child, also a boy and also born by C-section, this one planned.

Bridget and Jake couldn't be more for thankful for their two healthy sons. But there was no denying that the births were not what Bridget had hoped for.

"I really struggled," she says. "I actually had to go through a grieving process, letting go of the loss of an experience I had wanted with all my hear and knew I would never have."

A More Intimate Birthing Experience

Then, in 2015, with her third child on the way, Kavitski read an article about a new concept known as a gentle cesarean. Although a gentle C-section is performed the same way as a traditional C-section, some small changes in procedure enable mothers to be more involved in their birth experience.

During a typical C-section, solid color drapes are put up that prevent mothers from seeing the delivery. After the birth, the newborn is taken to a warmer bed to be evaluated. Next, the baby is wrapped and handed to the mother's partner. Often, the mother has virtually no contact with her child until after she has been taken to the recovery room.

In comparison, during a gentle C-section, a clear drape is placed in front of the mother's abdomen so she can see her baby being born. Skin-to-skin contact starts within seconds after the birth. Experts say the new technique improves bonding in the first few minutes of life.

Kavitski was interested in trying a gentle C-section and mentioned the method to her longtime Ob/Gyn at Bryn Mawr Hospital, Margaret Burns, MD, during an early office visit. However, before this new technique could be used, Dr. Burns had to test its safety and feasibility. With help from her midwife, Denise Wilks, Dr. Burns staged the delivery set-up using a clear drape in her office to confirm that the mother would be able to see her baby.

Then, Dr. Burns consulted with Bryn Mawr Hospital staff, including the head of the anesthesia department, several neonatologists, the OB nurse manager, and the OB administrative clinical coordinator. All gave her a thumbs-up.

On December 28, 2015, Dr. Burns and Wilks delivered Kavitski's healthy baby girl at Bryn Mawr Hospital by gentle C-section. Kavitski was able to experience, for the first time, seeing her baby being born. After the delivery, the newborn was quickly evaluated by the pediatrician and placed on her mother's chest for skin-to-skin contact. Then, while Kavitski was snuggling with her baby, the clear drape was exchanged for a solid color drape for the remainder of the surgery.

Lasting Joy

Kavitski was the first to hold her daughter, Grace.

"The skin-to-skin contact was incredible. It will forever be one of the most sacred moments of my life," she says.

The overall experience was everything Kavitski and her delivery team had hoped for. For Dr. Burns, the gentle C-section was a relatively simple matter that brought to a family she cares deeply about.

"I was honored that Bridget felt she could ask me to do this for her, and I hope that other obstetricians will embrace this technique for patients who desire a better cesarean experience," she says.

"The gentle cesarean gave me back a part of what I lost," says Kavitski, now 34. "It didn't replace the experience of a vaginal birth, but it gave me the essence of it, and created something special and sacred in a place that had been intimidating and sterile. I wouldn't trade my daughter's birth for anything."

The gentle C-section procedure is available at Bryn Mawr Hospital, with plans to implement this birthing option across all Main Line Health hospitals. Visit our website to learn more about our maternity services.