Recent advances in biological and behavioral sciences have resulted in wide-spread recognition that sensitive developmental periods and early life experiences may influence life-long patterns of health. One such noteworthy developmental period is the period immediately after childbirth.Direct skin-to-skin maternal-newborn contact during this period is a natural phenomenon and defining feature in the mammalian species. In fact, maternal-newborn contact immediately after birth is significant, because this practice facilitates the mammalian infant’s optimal transition to healthy biological, physiological, and developmental processes. Recently, evidence has accumulated to support the beneficial effects for both infant and mother when natural birthing processes, such as immediate post-partum maternal-infant skin-to-skin contact, are supported. Skin-to-skin contact (SSC) is defined as the positioning of the naked baby, head covered with a dry cap and a warm blanket across the back, prone on the mother’s bared chest within the first minutes after birth. Because the evidence for this practice is so compelling, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have both recommended its adoption as part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in all settings where childbirth occurs. This international endorsement, as well as endorsement by other national maternal-child experts, resulted in the implementation of routines and procedures to support SSC after vaginal delivery in the immediate post-partum period in many childbirth centers across the United States .
Recently, evidence to support the safety, efficacy and feasibility of initiating SSC after Cesarean delivery has mounted. However, one significant barrier to SSC immediately after birth in the operating suite remains – the sterile field creates a physical barrier between the mother and her newly delivered baby. A novel surgical drape has recently been devised to overcome this barrier. This innovative drape, known as the Skin-to-Skin Contact Obstetrical (SSC-OB) surgical drape, allows the obstetrician to reach through a pre-designed portal in the main drape to place the infant on the mother’s chest immediately after delivery without compromising sterility.
The initiation of SSC immediately after delivery is critical for promoting optimal well-being of both neonate and mother. This standard of care has been endorsed by both national and international childbirth experts, and has become customary after routine vaginal delivery in the majority of US childbirth centers. However, SSC is not commonly initiated immediately after birth when a cesarean delivery is necessitated. Challenges and barriers to this standard of care in the operating suite have recently become a focus for improvement. The development of an innovative surgical drape, specifically designed to facilitate immediate SSC after cesarean delivery, eliminates the main physical barrier to this standard of excellence.