I’m 37 weeks pregnant and I’m just not sure I can wait for nature to take its course. Can I ask my doctor if I can schedule a C-section?
It can be frustrating to wait until your due date to meet your baby. But Cesarean sections (or C-sections) are usually scheduled for women such as those:
- who are having a high-risk pregnancy (i.e., they may be expecting multiples or have a medical condition that would make a vaginal delivery too risky)
- who've had previous C-sections (although many women can safely deliver vaginally after a C-section) or other uterine surgeries
- who have problems with the placenta, such as placenta previa (when the placenta sits too low in the uterus and covers the cervix)
- whose babies have certain birth defects
- whose babies are in the wrong position (sideways or breech)
Although it may be tempting to try to schedule your baby's "birth day" and avoid the uncertainty and pain of labor, C-sections should never be approached lightly. A C-section is considered a major surgery and, like any surgery, does come with risks, which include:
- bladder or bowel injury
- reactions to medications
- blood clots
- death (very rare)
- possible injury to the baby
Another potential risk of having a scheduled C-section that is not medically necessary is giving birth to a late pre-term baby (born between 34 and 36 weeks). Why? Because the due date (also called the expected delivery date, or EDD) may be wrong. Your due date is 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP). If you deliver on your due date, your baby is actually only about 38 weeks old — that's because your egg didn't become fertilized until about 2 weeks after the start of your last menstrual period. Women who have irregular periods or first trimester bleeding may be mistaken regarding when their last menstrual period was. Although ultrasounds can help to narrow it down, the estimated date of conception may still be off by a couple of weeks.
Babies born late pre-term are generally healthy but may have temporary problems such as jaundice, trouble feeding, problems with breathing, or difficulty maintaining body temperature.
Although a traditional labor and delivery may seem scary and unpredictable, vaginal delivery usually carries fewer risks than a C-section. Plus, you can come home sooner and recover quicker with a vaginal delivery.
If you're interested in having a C-section instead of a vaginal birth, you should discuss the risks and benefits of both options in detail with your doctor.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: August 2009
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