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Accepted Paper:

Gentle caesarean as a catalyst of change in obstetric culture in Switzerland  
Caroline Chautems (University of Lausanne) Irene Maffi (University of Lausanne) Ainhoa Saenz Morales (University of Lausanne - UNIL)

Paper short abstract:

Aiming at enhancing parents’ experience of birth, gentle caesarean has been recently introduced in some Swiss hospitals. By reshaping the script of the operating room, this technique transforms the experience of parents and practitioners, producing a more humanised medical model.

Paper long abstract:

In Switzerland, one in three deliveries is a caesarean birth, a rate which is one of the highest in Europe and reflects the dominant technocratic obstetric culture. In a social context that nevertheless values vaginal deliveries, caesarean births are often associated with an increased parental dissatisfaction and feelings of disillusionment and failure. Recently introduced in some Swiss hospitals as a consistent and systematic technique, gentle caesarean improves parents’ experiences by allowing their increased participation within the requirements of the operating room. Gentle caesarean enables parents to see their baby’s extraction by lowering the surgical drape and allows new-born, partner and mother to stay together in the operating theatre. This shift disrupts the usual script of surgical birth, where parents and health providers are symbolically and physically separated, and prevents mother and baby separation. The paternalistic medical tradition that deems parents too sensitive to handle the sight of anything surgery-related is thus put into question.

This paper is based on an ongoing research on parents’ experience of caesarean birth in Switzerland, combining ethnographic observations in the maternity wards of two public hospitals and in-depth interviews with couples and health professionals. We intend to examine how gentle caesarean elicits a reconnection of medical teams with parents during surgery and a more satisfactory experience for all involved actors. While documenting parents’ and health professionals’ experiences with this technique, we aim to reflect on Swiss obstetric culture and the promotion of respectful and sensitive practices around caesarean births.

Panel P50
Is all well with birth? Anthropological contributions to reproductive and maternal health systems
  Session 1 Thursday 13 April, 2023, -