C-Sections 101

Why Are C-Sections Scheduled in Advance?

Not all c-sections come as a surprise during labor. In many cases, your doctor may schedule you for a c-section in advance because of known factors or complications that would make a vaginal delivery too difficult. These can include:

  • You've had a cesarean before: While some women who've had cesareans previously can safely undergo a vaginal birth the next time around, nearly 80 percent of scheduled cesareans are repeats. And once you've delivered one baby by c-section, you'll always be offered the option to do so again.
  • Your baby's in the breech position: If your baby's feet first (instead of head first) and your doctor can't turn him around, a c-section is usually the safest way for you to deliver.
  • You have placenta previa or placental abruption: If your placenta is lying at the bottom of your uterus (instead of at the side or top), it can block your baby's exit from your womb or cause heavy bleeding during delivery. If your placenta has started to separate from the wall of your uterus (a condition called placental abruption), this can cause heavy bleeding and complications for your baby, so c-sections are necessary in both cases.
  • You're pregnant with twins or multiples. Though a vaginal birth is possible with twins, most are delivered by c-section, where both babies can be more closely monitored. Triplets or larger groups of multiples are always born via c-section.

Some women may think about scheduling a c-section in advance for other reasons -- like wanting to have an exact plan for when their baby will be born, or because they're worried about the pain of having a vaginal birth, but experts advise against having the procedure strictly for convenience's sake, especially before 39 weeks. For one thing, a c-section is major abdominal surgery, and there's always the risk of complications with anesthesia or post-procedure infections. There's also a long and painful recovery period, which can make you pretty uncomfortable and have a harder time breastfeeding in the first few weeks after your baby's born.

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