Newborn at UNMH
Newborn at UNMH
Credit: Barry Staver

UNM Hospital has joined a growing national trend by offering “gentle C-sections” to qualifying mothers-to-be, according to Naomi Swanson, MD, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology within the UNM School of Medicine. 

“It is a very different experience from a traditional C-section. We are able to incorporate more aspects of the natural birthing experience and we find that, overall, it is better for both the mom and baby,” said Swanson. 

Physicians must ensure strict criteria are met during traditional C-section surgeries, she said, including having a baby examined immediately by a pediatrician and possibly being transferred to another unit for care. 

In contrast, the gentle C-section provides for a more family-centered experience.

“We can do things like change the lighting in the room, provide calming music and even allow for additional support persons in the room. We also offer a clear drape if the mother wants to observe the birth,” she said. 

Most importantly though, is giving mother and newborn the opportunity to immediately bond, said Swanson.

“We can delay clamping the cord which allows us to see how the baby is doing and allows the baby to go directly to mom to bond skin-to-skin rather than be taken to another unit. It helps the mother to start breast-feeding and helps the baby to self-regulate its temperature. It is definitely something we want to strive for,” she said. 

Not everyone will qualify for the procedure. Prematurity - a gestational period of less than 39 weeks - does not fall under the banner of allowable gentle C-section. Neither will cases where there are concerns about the baby or known medical problems facing the mother.

“But it is an option for many mothers, including those who have had C-sections before,” added Swanson. 

UNM has been providing the procedure for most of the past academic year, she said. 

“Our patients are hearing about this and they are coming to us, asking for the experience,” she said. 

Physicians at the UNM main hospital and the new UNM Women’s Primary Care clinic now open at 2130 Eubank Blvd can speak with prospective mothers about the procedure, Swanson said.