I have to admit, when I first realized what I was looking at in this video, my first thought was, What in the actual … ? Because it’s pretty crazy, people.
Last year, Sarah Saunders uploaded a video of herself on YouTube giving birth at Torbay Hospital in England through what she dubbed a “Natural Caesarean.” And what is a “natural caesarean” you ask? Good question. It’s apparently when a baby delivers itself straight out of the womb.
Yes, for real.
In the video, Saunders explains that the surgeon on her case delivered her son’s head following typical C-section procedure by cutting an incision, but then allowed her son to deliver himself the rest of the way. “I wanted to share this video to show that if you are unable to give birth ‘naturally’ that having a natural caesarean is the next best thing!” Saunders wrote on her video caption. “In this amazing video my Son delivers himself after the surgeon helps his head out. The team at Torbay were phenomenal and gave me a birth experience I will cherish forever.”
The video is slightly bizarre to watch, as the surgeon is manipulating her uterus and Saunders is just lying there, smiling and relaxed, but we’ll just give a thumbs-up to modern medicine for that phenomenon, I suppose.
Things get even more surprising when the surgeon lifts Saunders’ son’s head out of the incision and just, well, leaves his head there. The room erupts in excitement as they all marvel at the little guy hanging out there. The surgeon even offers Saunders a congratulatory pat on the part of her stomach that doesn’t have a baby sticking out of it.
“Do you want to give a push?” the surgeon jokes, as Saunders looks at him warily. “What?” she says with a laugh. Nervous laughter ensues from everyone. The baby then starts to grimace and cry a little, so the surgeon gives the little guy a helping hand and delivers him up through his shoulders, again, letting him rest on his mother.
“Can you see something? Is it a boy?” Saunders asks the room, looking perfectly composed and happy. “We can’t see yet,” one the nurses replies, as the yet-to-be-identified-boy tries to wriggle his way out of his mom’s womb onto the operating table.
The room then falls mostly silent as the baby starts to make some serious progress. “He’s delivering himself,” someone explains. “Brilliant.”
And deliver himself he does. The surgeon keeps a hand on the baby’s head, guiding him out, but the determined little guy continues to slowly work himself out, until at last, he’s free and his happy mother is able to announce his birth.
As the baby continues to show off a healthy set of lungs with some lusty cries (an important way to clear the lungs that can be more filled with mucus in a C-section, possibly leading to respiratory problems), the surgeon lets him hang out in his hands for a minute, practicing what appears to be delayed cord clamping to allow all of the blood from the placenta to get to the baby before cutting off the supply.
Overall, the procedure seemed to be a very relaxed, gentle, and slow C-section, which of course, would only be possible in a non-emergency C-section. And while I have heard of “natural C-sections” before, I thought they mostly involved interventions, such as allowing the mother and any partner to watch the baby be born, along with implementing immediate skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding right in the operating room, not so much letting a baby deliver itself.
But apparently, what this video displayed is a real technique. It’s called “walking the baby out” and it’s described in the British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology exactly how the doctor in the video performed it: the baby’s head is delivered, and then the surgeon goes “hands-off” while the baby auto-resuscitates.
Letting the baby start breathing while the rest of its body remains inside of the mother allows the baby to stay attached to the placenta’s circulation and gives the baby a chance to get rid of excess lung fluid from the mother’s uterus and tissue. In essence, the technique mimics what happens through a vaginal delivery, when the baby’s lungs are compressed through the birth canal. Once the baby starts crying, the doc eases the shoulders out, and the baby then proceeds to deliver his or herself. And as an extra bonus, the journal notes, the baby acts like a giant human tamponade against the uterine incision, decreasing bleeding.
At the risk of sounding redundant, can I just say? Brilliant, indeed.