We all have pictures in our heads of what birth looks like even before we give birth. Sometimes these pictures are based on births we’ve witnessed in real life, but often our brains paint these pictures with memories of images we’ve seen on television or double-tapped on Instagram.
That is why we love how moms are posting their clear drape C-sections on Instagram, showing the world that this new kind of Cesarean delivery can be absolutely beautiful. By posting these pictures, mothers and birth photographers aren’t just proving that C-section births are just as Insta-worthy as every other way women deliver, but they are also spreading awareness about clear drape C-sections, which are also known as ‘gentle Cesareans.’
It is important for mamas to know that this is an option you can ask for and it is so beautiful.
What is a clear drape C-section?
A clear drape C-section can be part of the trend medical professionals call ‘gentle c-sections.’ The clear drape replaces the standard opaque blue one so that mama can look down and see her baby’s first moments (although you can still have a gentle Cesarean even if you can’t have a clear drape—we’ll show you a great photo of what that can look like in a moment).
Basically, the clear drapes are part of a shift midwives and doctors are making to make Cesareans deliveries feel more like births and less like a cold medical procedure. The old standard ways of doing Cesareans have not been working for moms—so birth advocates and medical professionals are working to change that.
Just because a baby needs to be born via cesarean doesn’t mean mama can’t be a participant in her birth experience.
“Gentle Cesareans are a huge step in the right direction. We need to bring birth back to women. Women need options and choices, autonomy and respect. Becoming a mother is one of the most momentous events in a woman’s lifetime—she deserves to have it be her best birth,” says Motherly’s Digital Education Editor, Diana Spalding, a midwife, pediatric nurse and founder of Gathered Birth.
Why the option of clear drapes is so important
That first time you see your baby is so special and amazing, and most mothers want to see their child as soon as that baby is out in the world. But for many moms an opaque sheet can get in the way. According to the CDC, almost 32% of all births in America are C-sections. In Canada, the rate is just under 29%, and the UK sees a similar rate. A 2018 Instagram poll by Motherly found about 41% of participants had given birth via C-section.
So there’s potential to help a lot of mothers feel more at ease in the OR. The gentle cesarean method isn’t just about letting mama see her baby earlier, it’s also about letting her bond with her baby sooner.
Gentle Cesareans are also about respecting that this isn’t just a surgery, it is a birth, too. “When it’s time for the baby to be born, the doctors help ease the baby out slowly—head, shoulder, abdomen, and then legs—much like what happens in a vaginal birth. Skin-to-skin bonding is often done right in the OR, and sometimes breastfeeding can even be initiated there too,” says Spalding.
Some people don’t want clear drapes, but for other mothers, the clear drapes are a way for them to experience their birth from the vantage point they imagined for the life-changing moment. “With the clear drape, the woman has the ability to look down and actually watch her baby be born (don’t worry—she won’t be able to see much of the actual surgery because her belly will be in the way),” Spalding explains.
Because of the angle mothers aren’t getting a close-up look at the surgical part of the procedure, so clear drape cesareans aren’t as gory as some would assume. It’s really more similar to how a vaginal birth happens in that mom is not seeing everything the doctors are, but is able to see her baby as soon as possible, and that is something to smile about.
A gentle Cesarean is a more holistic approach to a standard C-section because it brings the focus back on mom as a person, not as a belly in need of surgery. Often, medical teams try to make gentle C-sections as family-focused as possible, and sometimes are even able to accommodate parts of a mother’s birth plan that would be abandoned with a traditional C-section, like incorporating music or other therapeutic, relaxing elements.
It’s about making the operating room as pleasant a place as possible and respecting mom.
Other ways to watch your own C-section
Sometimes, for medical reasons, hospital policy or because mama requests it, the clear drapes are not an option. But that doesn’t mean that mom can’t have a gentle Cesarean. Even with traditional blue drapes, medical teams are making efforts to help mama and baby bond as soon as possible.
Sometimes, that means there’s a little window in the sheet and baby gets passed through to mom for instant skin-to skin-contact. Other times, it looks different, depending on medical need.
We love how mothers and birth photographers are sharing these stories and photos because one thing is as clear as the drapes: C-sections are just as beautiful as every other kind of birth.
A version of this story was published June 25, 2021. It has been updated.