You might be surprised to see that I am writing a post about C-sections. You might even think that “holistic” and “c-section” don’t belong in the same sentence. Yes, it is obviously a medical procedure. One that we are lucky to have, as caesarean sections can be truly life-saving for mother or baby (or both!). I think C-sections are often stigmatised in the natural health community, which tends to alienate those who end up going down this route, making them feel worse about their circumstances than they already do. Wouldn’t you agree?
Now let me also briefly state that, while I respect everyone’s individual choices, I would advise reconsidering elective C-sections where there is no medical necessity. I may get slammed for this. I’m not trying to offend anyone. I’m just pointing out that the research shows that babies born by C-sections do have an increased risk of poorer outcomes. HOWEVER the reasons for these outcomes (such as increased risk of asthma, eczema, allergies and obesity) are multi-factorial, with birth by CS just being ONE of those factors.
So….if you know that you are going to need a CS, how do you best prepare? Also, what about if you have already had a CS? Is there anything you can do to support your child’s (and your own) overall health? Certainly, my love. Let’s take a little look.
Now I can only offer my insight from the outside looking in on this one. Having had 2 vaginal births, I can only imagine (and through speaking with women who have had a CS), that birth via CS carries with it some emotional trauma. So I will say I understand, but I don’t REALLY understand, if you know what I mean? So these are my suggestions for dealing with the mental and emotional side of things:
- Accept the circumstances
And yes, I know this is probably easier said than done. Again,I don’t want to trivialise anything here. Just trying to offer some support.
I actually think that all mothers should accept that there is a possibility their child might be born by C-section. These tiny humans really do have their own agenda, and I think if you go in with the stance of “absolutely no way will I have a C-section”, then, if things take a different path, it might be more difficult to deal with – both in the moment, and after the fact.
- Acknowledge your emotions
If you have a scheduled CS for medical reasons, try taking some time in the lead-up to the birth to really “feel the feels” –talk about it (without shame), journal about it (freely and openly), and consider speaking with a professional counsellor/psychologist if you find you are really struggling. Especially speak with your partner about how you are feeling (and also ask how they are feeling). Also chat with your midwife and/or doula as much as possible. PLEASE do not hold these emotions in. Nor should you blame yourself for any outcome – you can do all of the squats/spinning babies/acupuncture/perineal massage/red raspberry leaf in the world, and you still might need to have a CS. It is what it is.
I would also suggest doing the same AFTER the birth, to help you process any emotions. You might want to check out my post on post-natal depression for some ideas.
Try and practice gratitude daily – your body was so amazing in its ability to create this human. The birth itself is such a small blip in time. Focus now on bonding with your little one and acknowledging how awesome the female body is!
You might even want to consider experimenting with some essential oils, such as the doTERRA blends Console, Forgive and Cheer. Maybe some Frankincense (because he really is the king of oils!).
- Focus on all of the things you CAN do
While you might not be able to push a human out your vagina, there is a lot you can do….
For you, and for bubs….
- Look after yourself, nutritionally, during pregnancy
Everything you eat gets passed on to your bubs. Eat well – whole foods, plenty of fats and proteins to support healing (bone broth and gelatinous cuts of meat would be my go-to here).
Make sure your iron stores are well and truly adequate and, if they aren’t, address this please. Have a little bit of organic liver (as pate) to help replenish your stores. Check out THIS POST on safe consumption of liver during pregnancy.
One of the big problems with a CS is bubs not passing through the vaginal canal and being inoculated with all of the wonderful flora that resides in your lady garden. These bacteria are SO important in our overall health.
With most CS, a baby’s first exposure will be to the sterile environment of the operating theatre, and any bacteria that is hanging out there (which is different to the vagina, and can result in a different microbial make-up for bubs).
Enter “vaginal seeding”.
Say what now?
Vaginal seeding involves taking a swab from the mother’s vagina and wiping this over the baby’s mouth, eyes, face and skin shortly after birth by CS, allowing baby to be exposed to the bacteria that it should be when passing through the vaginal canal.
Hopefully this will be mainstream practice in the future but, for now, you might need to have a chat with your doc/partner/midwife about this and have them on board to help (as you will not be able to do it yourself).
Following up with some good quality probiotics, specific to babies, would also be a good idea. Then, as they start on solids, introduce fermented foods over time (such as sauerkraut, kefir, yoghurt and beet kvass).
Breastfeeding will also help to establish good gut flora in bubs, and also nourish the good bacteria already present. Seriously – our boobs are amazing at what they can produce! I have just finished watching a webinar on this very topic – the breast microbiome and glycobiome. How nerdy does that sound?!
AND – also know that some probiotics can be passed on from mum to bub in utero, so get those goodies in your guts while you can!
- Delayed cord clamping
This simply involves waiting a few minutes (ideally until the cord stops pulsating, at least) before clamping the cord, which increases the blood volume in bubs, and has been shown to help improve iron stores, as well as infant health and nutrition outcomes. You’ll need to have a chat with your doctor about this one, so they can be well prepared for it.
This is also a good time to get started with skin to skin contact (which should happen ASAP – get bubs on you straight away – don’t worry about them being clean. Just cuddle them with all of their goo!), to help promote bonding, and, hopefully, initiate breastfeeding.
- Fuel yourself for healing
After a CS (or after any birth, really), you’ll want to flood your body with nutrients that will promote healing. Foods that I would recommend, that will promote healing and decrease inflammation, would include….
- Oily fish (and/or a good quality omega 3 fatty acid supplement
- Bone broth
- Grass-fed/free range and preferably organic meat on the bone (think ribs, shanks, drumsticks…)
- Turmeric (make yourself a golden latte, or 2)
- Loads of colourful veg (this will also help with fibre content, which will aid elimination, which can be tricky after a CS – the meds can sometimes cause a bit of constipation
- Good quality fats
- Collagen powder
- Vitamin C (essential for collagen production)
- A good quality multi (I like the doTERRA Lifelong Vitality Pack, which also has a good omega 3 supplement in it)
- Digestive enzymes, to help you break down your food (again to help with any constipation)
- Skin to skin ASAP (see above).
Get baby on you straight away and for as long as possible – both of you naked, with a blanket over you both for extra warmth.
This helps to regulate baby’s body temperature, heart rate, breathing and blood sugar levels. It also aids in the initiation of breastfeeding and can pass on some beneficial bacteria via the skin.
All in all it makes for a smoother transition from womb to world (which you can imagine is pretty scary!), and encourages bonding.
- Minimal moving around
I’m talking weeks, if not months, of ONLY gentle movement. Your body has been through a significant trauma, so please go easy on it. Now is NOT the time to be doing any sort of “mummy bootcamp”. K? You might want to consider seeing a personal trainer/exercise physiologist who specialises in postnatal recovery.
And you might want to consider seeing a pelvic floor physio. Yes, your vagina might be intact from not pushing a watermelon through it, but your pelvic floor has still carried that weight for 9 months. Just go see a vagina physio, OK?
- Nourish your scar
Internally, you can encourage the healing of your scar through good foods (especially fats and proteins) and supplemental vitamin C and collagen, but you might want to nourish it topically, too.
First of all, you’ll want to keep it dry and clean – no scrubbing! After a couple of weeks, you could apply some healing essential oils, such as helichrysum (this would be my #1 go to), frankincense and lavender, diluted in a base of a beautiful carrier oil such as jojoba, almond, rose-hip or avocado oil.
Right – I think that’s a big enough essay for today (Making up for weeks of no blog posting). I hope this helps! And remember – the birth is a small blip. Yes, it is important and a major milestone for mum and bubs, but if it doesn’t go according to plan, please don’t beat yourself up. You’re going to be a great mama and that kid is lucky to have you! Had to finish with this little meme…
Anything I have missed? Anything else that has or has not worked for you? Questions? Thoughts? Shoot them in the comments below. xx Kate