How Cleo supports families through cesarean births

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, Cleo Guide Taylor Davis shares how Cleo supports members through cesarean births plus her own experience as a mom of three.

April is Cesarean Awareness Month. As a Cleo Guide, birth doula, and childbirth educator, I’m passionate about cesarean birth education. As a mom of three kids, one of whom was born by cesarean, I’m passionate about teaching people how to advocate for themselves and how to have a satisfying and empowering cesarean birth. I want expecting families to know about the high cesarean rate in the US, the risks of cesarean birth, and the situations in which a cesarean birth is necessary. At Cleo, we support all birth outcomes, including cesareans, by offering evidence-based information and ongoing guidance.

Universally, Cleo aims to have a low-risk member cesarean birth rate below the U.S. national average of 26%. Cleo’s low-rate cesarean birth rate is 13.9%. This is because, while sometimes necessary, cesareans come with increased complication risks, higher costs, and longer recoveries. With that in mind, we also recognize the reality that many of our members will give birth by cesarean and we believe it to be a valid and necessary birth choice for some.

Carolynn was amazing, such a helpful [cesarean birth prep] session! I feel really good about everything. Had my appointment today and have a scheduled cesarean next Friday…we’ll get to meet [baby] soon!

Lindsey, Cleo Baby Member

In some cultures and communities, cesarean birth can come with a negative stigma. People who have given birth by cesarean share that they are sometimes made to feel like their birth was a failure, like their birth wasn’t a “real” birth experience, and/or like they took the easy way out. Rather than treating cesarean birth like a lesser choice or a ‘failure,’ we help our members to have satisfying birth experiences, breastfeed or chestfeed their babies if they choose, and have smoother physical recoveries.

For employers, understanding the support expecting parents need through birth planning and after a cesarean section is essential. Cesarean births are costly. Beyond that, long physical recovery, mental health risks, and the additional stress of feeding can prevent birthing parents from returning to work on time (or at all) and being present and engaged when they do return. With Cleo, parents who give birth via cesarean receive critical support so they can ultimately be more confident, engaged, and productive at home and at work.

Here is how Cleo supports our members who birth by cesarean:

  1. Prenatal education: Our members who are preparing for cesarean birth often want to know what the experience will be like from start to finish, how they can recover and be healthy afterwards, and if they can still successfully breastfeed/chestfeed their baby. To answer all of these questions, we offer a 1:1 Cesarean Birth Prep session with one of our birth specialists. During this session, the specialist helps members understand what to expect during their birth and postpartum recovery, helps them plan for a supported birth and postpartum, and helps them explore their options for a cesarean birth.
  2. Family-centered cesarean planning: Cesarean birth is more than just a surgery or procedure. It’s a birth experience in which the birthing family still has options and the opportunity to be active participants in the birth of their child. Many hospitals are beginning to recognize this and are offering a more gentle and family-centered cesarean experience. This can include options like having a doula in the operating room with you, having skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after birth (which has many proven health benefits), no separation of birthing person and baby during recovery, and more. Being centered during this experience can help create a positive birth experience and support better mental health during the postpartum time period. We educate our members on these options and coach them on how to communicate their preferences with their care providers.
  3. Physical recovery support: Physical recovery from cesarean birth can be challenging. Our Cleo Family Guides send tips for optimal recovery to members who give birth by cesarean. They also help connect members to further support, like pelvic floor physical therapy, when appropriate.
  4. Mental health support: For members who weren’t anticipating a cesarean birth, but end up birthing by cesarean, we offer one-on-one support with birth and/or mental health specialists to process the birth experience. We hear from many birthing parents that being listened to and validated around any negative emotions regarding their birth is very helpful in the emotional healing process. When needed, our Guides help members find ongoing mental health support as well.
  5. Lactation support: Sometimes giving birth by cesarean can lead to a rocky start with breastfeeding/chestfeeding. Cleo’s International Board Certified Lactation Counselors (IBCLCs) offer one-on-one support sessions for all of our members. They work with members to identify feeding goals and help new parents meet them.

The [emotional wellness] session was great and really helpful for me and for my partner…I’m certain I’ll take advantage of the lactation and newborn care support as well—being able to talk with someone together has made a big difference.

Cleo Baby Member

I’ve often thought about how different my birth and postpartum experience would have been eleven years ago if I’d had Cleo to help me prepare for a cesarean birth and a Cleo Guide to reach out to during my postpartum period. I would have had more of a voice in how my birth unfolded, and might have known I could advocate to not be separated from my baby for his first few hours of life. After the birth, I could have processed my complicated feelings with someone skilled in listening to and validating them. I could have received breastfeeding support and avoided weeks and weeks of struggling to figure out how to feed my baby. And I could have received guidance around how to care for myself for optimal recovery. Cleo would have helped normalize what I was feeling, built my confidence in my skills as a parent, and even improved my mental health so that I could return to work feeling less anxious and more prepared.

Cleo cesarean birth Taylor Davis family