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Has your doctor or midwife suggested a planned cesarean section (C-section) for your baby? Women can go for this option for many reasons -- they had a previous C-section or have a baby who's facing the wrong way, to name two.

For some women, a planned C-section is the best choice. But it's important not to rush the decision. C-sections have risks of their own. Experts say C-sections have become too common. Women who don't need them are getting them anyway.

To protect your health, and your baby's, here's a guide that will help you decide.

What Is a Planned C-Section?

Some C-sections are necessary because of an emergency. In many of these cases, a doctor will switch to a C-section after a woman has already started labor and had problems.

Planned C-sections are different. In these cases, your doctor or midwife has found a medical reason that a C-section makes sense. But it's not an emergency. It may also turn out to be unnecessary. In the end, you and your doctor may decide that a vaginal birth is a better choice.

Planned C-sections for a medical reason are different from purely elective C-sections. Some healthy women want a C-section so they can pick their delivery date or avoid a vaginal delivery. Their doctors may disagree. In fact, experts from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology don't recommend a C-section unless there's a medical reason. They add that if an elective C-section is planned, it should not be before 39 weeks of pregnancy and is particularly discouraged for women wanting more children.   

If Your Doctor Is Planning a C-Section

You need to ask a lot of questions, such as: 

  • Why do you think I need a C-section?
  • If I don’t have one, what are the risks for my baby and me?
  • Do the benefits clearly outweigh the risks in my case?
  • How quickly do we need to decide?
  • Will we be able to wait until 39 or 40 weeks for the C-section?
  • Is there any other option?
  • Does this mean I will need C-sections for all my future deliveries?
  • Is my baby’s size the reason you’re recommending a C-section? If so, how accurate are the weight estimates?

What to Consider With a Planned C-Section

While C-sections are generally very safe, they're still major surgeries. They carry risks for you and the baby. If you're considering a planned C-section, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • After a C-section, your healing time will be longer than with a regular vaginal delivery -- four to six weeks, and sometimes longer.
  • Babies delivered by C-section have a bigger risk for breathing problems after birth that will require time in the neonatal intensive care unit. These usually go away within a few days.
  • Kids born by C-section are more likely to have asthma, diabetes, allergies, and obesity later in life.
  • You have a bigger risk of heavy bleeding, infection, or blood clots with C-sections than with a vaginal delivery. Some women will need a transfusion.