05 “Where’s my baby?”: How do women experience separation from their baby at caesarean section birth?

Speaker: Linda Deys

Facilitator: Linda Sweet

Midwives traditionally guide, create safety and share goals with women through labour and birth. Childbirth is recognised as a woman’s right of passage, with a positive experience associated with a sense of control and  how she is treated and made to feel. When the birthing landscape is an operating theatre, women lose their autonomy and the midwives’ role of being ‘with-woman’ is challenged. Separation of mothers from their infant is common. 

Design: Using a feminist phenomenological framework, fifteen women who experienced non-medically indicated separation from their infant at caesarean section were interviewed. 

Results: Preliminary data analysis using a Modified van Kaam approach shows feelings of powerlessness, loneliness, sadness and frustration which lasts well beyond the perinatal period. It impacts their personal relationships and plans for future births. The results reflect a patriarchal, staff-focused environment where women are disregarded and do not feel safe.

Conclusion:  Separating mothers and babies at caesarean section negatively impacts birth experience. Midwives have the opportunity to recognise power imbalance and create a sanctum within the surgical environment. Recognising that birth is more than the mode of delivery, midwives are often the only ones in a position to be the woman’s advocate at a caesarean birth. Midwives have the opportunity to create an environment where the woman has power and agency over her body and baby. Separating a mother from her baby can negatively impact her birth experience and future personal relationships. 

Recording: https://youtu.be/is7ho3NoP4w