Is a Planned C-Section Right for Me?

A woman may want a planned cesarean section to give birth for many reasons. For some, it's the best choice. But C-sections have risks of their own.

As long as there's no emergency, don't let yourself be rushed. Take the time to make a decision that feels right to you, for now as well as for your future.

Why You Might Have a C-Section

Sometimes a doctor will switch to this surgical procedure after a woman has started labor and then has problems.

Planned C-sections are different. Your doctor or midwife has found a medical reason for you to have one, but it's not an emergency. Two examples are that you've had a previous C-section and that you have a baby who's facing the wrong way. You and your doctor may even decide later that a vaginal birth is a better choice.

Some healthy women want the surgery so they can pick their delivery date or avoid a vaginal delivery. Those aren't medical reasons, and their doctors may disagree with that choice.

Experts from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology don't recommend these elective C-sections. They say you definitely shouldn't have one before 39 weeks. And they strongly discourage it if you want more children.

How It Affects the Birth

While C-sections are generally very safe, they're still major surgeries. Your recovery time will be longer than with a normal vaginal delivery, both in the hospital and afterward. And they carry risks for you and the baby.

You have a greater chance of:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Injury to other organs

Some women will need a blood transfusion.

Babies delivered by C-section are more likely to have breathing problems after birth. When they do, they may need to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit, usually for a few days.

Impacts Later in Life

Each C-section tends to be more difficult than the one before. If you're planning to have another baby, and particularly if you want a large family, talk with your doctor about how the procedure could affect your plans.

Continued

It could complicate future pregnancies. The placenta might not attach to your uterus the right way. This means you would have a greater chance for bleeding and could need a hysterectomy. The scar in your uterus could split open.

Depending on why you had a C-section and how it went, you may be able to give birth vaginally later. But if you've had more than one of these surgeries, vaginal birth may not be an option.

Kids born by C-section may be more prone to have asthma, diabetes, allergies, and obesity when they grow up.

What to Consider

Talk to your doctor or midwife about why they think you should have a C-section. If the baby's size is the reason, ask how accurate the weight estimates are. Find out if you have any other options to address their concern.

Will you be able to wait until 39 or 40 weeks, as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends?

Make sure you understand what harm could come to you and your infant if you don't have a C-section.

If having more children is important to you, find out if you'll need the procedure for future deliveries.

Think about whether or not the benefits of this surgery clearly outweigh the risks. It's OK to get a second opinion to help you decide.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 14, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: "Thinking About Inducing Your Labor: A Guide for Pregnant Women," "Elective Induction of Labor: Safety and Harms."

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Vaginal Delivery Recommended Over Maternal-Request Cesarean," "Cesarean Delivery on Maternal Request," "FAQ Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum Care," "Patient-Requested Cesarean Update," "Pelvic Support Problems, "Evaluation of Cesarean Delivery."

CDC: "Changes in Cesarean Delivery Rates by Gestational Age: United States, 1996–2011," "Recent Trends in Cesarean Delivery in the United States."

Childbirth Connection: "Best Evidence: C-Section."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Cesarean Delivery."

KidsHealth: "Can I Have a Vaginal Birth If I Had a Previous C-Section?"

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