If your baby has been diagnosed with a birth defect, discuss delivery options with your doctor and any of the specialists you've consulted with regarding your baby's condition. Although many special-needs babies can be delivered vaginally, some are better off being born by cesarean delivery. Where and how you deliver depends on your baby's situation. For example, if your baby has a congenital heart defect, he can probably be delivered vaginally. If the baby has spina bifida, he might fare better if delivered by a cesarean because a vaginal birth could cause additional damage to his spine. If your baby has a cardiac defect, delivering in a specialty hospital may make sense because there will be experienced medical staff on hand to provide specialized treatment.
Your doctor may recommend a scheduled cesarean delivery in week 37 or 38, before you go into labor. If so, your doctor may perform an amniocentesis; by analyzing a teaspoon or two of your amniotic fluid, he can check for a substance that is present only when your baby's lungs are mature. At this point in pregnancy, the risks from an amniocentesis include causing labor or breaking your water; miscarriage is not one of the risks.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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