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C-Section: To Clear Drape or Solid Drape? 

Scheduled a c-section and not sure if you'll want to watch what's happening behind the drape? We've got all the information you'll need to make a decision!
C-Section: To Clear Drape or Solid Drape? 
Updated: December 1, 2022

The imminent birth of your baby can bring up a whole list of questions. As your belly grows bigger and your due date draws closer, that list of questions can grow along with it. But if you know you’re having a scheduled c-section, well…that’s one unknown you can mark off your list. Your thoughts might then shift to what your ideal birthing experience would be. 

For example, you might be wondering if skin to skin contact is a priority for you, or you might be looking into whether you can have relaxing music playing during your c-section. Something to take into consideration that you may not have thought about is whether you want a clear drape or a solid drape for your c-section. 

Read on to find out what the difference between a clear drape and a solid drape is and what the advantages and disadvantages of these two options are, so that you can be as prepared as possible for the big day. 

What is a Clear Drape and a Gentle C-Section? 

While hearing the words “gentle” and “c-section” in the same sentence might be baffling, the actual process of a gentle c-section is no different to a traditional c-section.  According to the Mayo Clinic, a c-section (or cesarean section) birth is when a baby is delivered through surgical incisions made in the abdomen and uterus. Your doctor could recommend this choice for a number of reasons. Some include having had a c-section previously, if your baby is in an unusual position, or if your labor is not progressing normally. 

If you are able to choose a gentle c-section, UC Health explains there are options available to you. For example, you might be able to have your IV put in your non-dominant hand so you’re able to hold your newborn following delivery, and you may be offered a clear-drape. In most c-sections, an opaque screen or drape is secured into place over the birthing parent’s midsection before surgery begins. If you request a clear drape, it means that your baby will be immediately visible to you at the moment of birth.

What is the Purpose of Using a Clear Drape During a C-Section?

In 2021, Reuters fact-checked the rumor that clear drapes were used as a measure due to COVID-19. Reuters reported, “This is false. Clear drapes are used in c-sections to allow the mother to see the birth of her newborn and provide a sooner bonding experience between them while maintaining a sterilized field for the operation.” 

With a clear drape or a curtain that has a window, a mother can see those first magical moments when her baby enters this world. According to Reuters, you can see the baby as soon as it’s born and this sets the stage for a bonding connection to develop right away, even though you may not be able to touch your baby immediately. 

Why is a Drape Needed During a C-Section? 

Why is a Drape Needed During a C-Section?

From your view lying on the hospital gurney in the operating room, it might look like a puppet show is about to begin, but the screen (or sterile drape) you see is actually there to protect the sterile environment of the incision site. Placing surgical drapes around the surgical site creates a sterile operating field. Maintaining this reduces the number of microbes present to as few as possible, an important part of reducing the risk of post-procedure infections. The opaque drapes are also placed in such a way that the birthing mom isn’t able to view the incision site during the procedure. 

How Does Putting Up a Clear Drape Work?

In a typical c-section, a solid drape is placed over the birthing mother’s mid-section and this cloth is made from an opaque material. This means that unless you have truly remarkable eyesight or X-ray vision superpowers, you won’t be able to see through the drape. This cloth obscures a woman's view of her newborn, often causing her to feel as though she’s missing out on those first special moments that her child is brought into the world. 

Reuters explains that a clear drape is typically attached to the already in place surgical drape. After the incisions are made and right before the baby is born, the blue drape is lowered so that the birthing parent can see their baby through the clear sterile drape. This clear drape gives parents an earlier bonding experience with their baby while still providing protection from infection during the surgical procedure. Both types of drape will provide safety from infection. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Clear Drape C-Section 

For some birthing parents, a c-section has been circled on the calendar for months and is completely expected. For others, having a cesarean birth is unplanned and this change in mindset from witnessing a vaginal birth in your cozy delivery room to a surgical procedure in an operating room can be a lot to process. So, opting for a clear drape c-section may offer some supportive emotional benefits for new mothers. When a clear drape is used, bonding happens at the moment of birth - much like a vaginal birth. Usual c-section protocol can involve waiting upwards of 15-minutes as your baby is assessed and cleaned by medical staff. UC Health talks about the benefits of using a clear drape and watching your baby being born because it brings on feelings of participation in the birth experience.

However, for some women, watching the experience may feel frightening or traumatic. It’s important to know that neither option is wrong, it’s about what’s right for you. Giving birth is an incredibly challenging experience, so where you have choices to make, pick what you think will make the experience as smooth as possible for you.

How Can I Decide Which I Should Have? 

How Can I Decide If I Should Have a Clear Drape or Solid Drape C-Section?

To clear drape or not to clear drape, is entirely your choice. If you’re feeling like your morning sickness has returned when you think about using a clear window and seeing your baby right after delivery (and all their baby-goo), it’s a good idea to talk to your OB-GYN or your birth team. Those in the know can give you more details and answer any questions or concerns you might have. One side note: If you’re worried about seeing your incision site, you should know the clear drape is placed in such a way as to keep that out of view. And if you’re still wondering if this is your best choice, here is a video you can watch to get a sense of what happens.

Choosing a birth plan that feels comfortable can support you during your delivery and this applies to first time parents or women who are having their first baby. The sights and sounds of your labor and delivery are what family stories are made of – so choose which drape supports the birth experience you envision and the story you want to tell. If you are having trouble deciding, talk it through with your partner, family or friends, especially with those who have gone through a c-section before.

Enjoyed this article? Why not read about how to take care of your c-section scar?

Tonilyn Hornung

About Tonilyn

Tonilyn is a freelance writer whose articles and essays have been featured in numerous… Read more

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