Planning an Unplanned Caesarean birth
Updated: May 6
Planned or unplanned: why Caesarean birth can still be in your control.
For some people a Caesarean birth is their ideal, for some people it is not. Either way, planning the birth you want can be an important way to help you have a positive experience. But what about planning the birth that you don’t want?
I know this might sound crazy, why would you plan for something you don’t intend to do? But one thing we know about birth is that it can be unpredictable. So here I explore why planning for the unexpected might actually be worth your time.
At the end of last year, I started supporting an amazing couple who wanted “additional support and guidance” for their birth and during labour. They wanted “dad to have some help so that he could support mum” but also to have someone with them who was “experienced in birth” especially as they were planning a home birth.
They took the time to research and understand the birth process. They explored and identified the birth that was right for them (and what did not feel right for them). They created a birth plan and it was great for them that they had support from me, who understood their wishes and with whom they could share their views.
On the day of their birth, all started according to their plan; spontaneous labour, at home in a calm and considered birth space. Labour was intense from the start but mum coped well, managing her surges through movement, water, mental strength and a willingness to try everything to birth her baby. But it soon became clear, after quite some time (over 48 hours), that things were not progressing in the way it was expected. With this came a change of plan.
“A planned home, water birth ended up with a transfer to hospital and Caesarean birth.” On paper it was everything they didn’t want.
Left alone in the hospital room waiting to hear from them, I cried. I cried for the birth they tried so hard to achieve. I cried for the experience that I knew they didn’t want. So, when I got to meet them in recovery (so grateful to the hospital staff for making this happen) and I was met with these faces, I was very happily surprised.
Later when I asked them how they felt about their birth experience, this is what they said;
“The birth itself was positive. Although my previous thoughts about Caesarean birth were negative ones, I knew if it had to happen then it had to happen…which it did and for good reason. We understood this and actually after such a long labour and being in so much pain, it was a relief to know that I was getting the help I needed. It was a relief to know that after such a long labour, baby was coming. The team looking after us explained everything that was happening. I was happy. We knew we were in a safe place. Having you (our doula) there also gave us the additional reassurance and continuous support. And although a Caesarean wasn't our original ideal for birth, we had featured it on our birth plan. We had planned details for a Caesarean birth and we got it all; delayed cord clamping, skin to skin, dad to announce the gender and cut the cord.
What really helped was that dad was able to be there after. Our main concern about having a Caesarean birth, was the longer recovery and needing to stay in hospital after, possibly without dad being there to support. This was not the case at the hospital, in fact dad was able to be there for as long as he wanted. This made this period so much easier and the staff looked after us both.”
The work that this team did to prepare for the unexpected, helped them to work through this experience with tenacity and positivity.
Here are some things to consider when planning your unplanned birth:
Make a plan for plan B, even if you only ever want plan A. You still have choices no matter how birth goes.
If a Caesarean birth is plan B, consider what a Gentle Caesarean birth could look like and that birthing this way is still your birth.
Pack a hospital bag or note down the things you might need (and where they are) in case you do need to go to the hospital unexpectedly
Get support for your birth, doula support can help to keep your birth calm and also help you to work through considerations if birth plans change.
Consider what your preferred pain relief options would be in the scenario of a hospital birth
Photograph the birth, either your partner or someone in the theatre can capture the moment your baby is born and your first moments together
Postnatal planning- just as important as you birth plan. How will you support your physical recovery if you do have a belly birth? What other things might you need to consider or call into action if there is a change of plan? How will you support your recovery?
Have postnatal considerations in place either way
You are still in control of your birth and it is still your birth, no one delivers a baby but you. A baby born from your body is birthed by you.
Know that you may not feel how you expect to about your baby or your birth and know that this is ok
I am so grateful to this family for inviting me to share this journey with them. Their experience really highlights what a positive birth experience can be and that it does not necessarily lie within achieving plan A but also planning for plan B.
*As well as being their doula, I also supported this amazing team with my
Birth Photography Services. It was such a privilege to be trusted with their intimate story telling. Here are some more images from their birth: