When Is the Best Time to Schedule a C-Section?

How to choose the day for your Caesarian delivery

Pregnant women patient talking with doctor
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Many moms say one of the best parts of having a planned Caesarian section birth, c-section for short, is knowing exactly when their baby will be born. Whether you have already had one c-section and are electing not to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian delivery) or if you are planning a c-section for health or personal reasons, you can work with you doctors' office to decide when you'd like your baby's birthday to be.

While the date you choose will vary depending on your specific circumstances, there are several considerations you may want to make when choosing your baby's birthday.

Personal Factors in Choosing Your Delivery Date

There are many personal factors you may wish to consider when you schedule your c-section. It's best to avoid dates that your family associates with sadness, such as the days a person died or other traumatic moments. You may wish to avoid or commemorate other memorable days such as birthdays and holidays too.

Another period you may want to consider is school. Take a moment to think about when your child will be celebrating their birthday at school. There's probably enough leeway to avoid a summer birthday, but the difference in a few days might determine if your child will have her birthday on a school day or over Christmas vacation. As we grow older, the day of our birthdays often become less important but this can be very significant for a school age child.

Reasons for Early C-Sections

Sometimes C-sections must be done before 39 weeks of gestation. Exceptions include: 

  • Higher order multiples
  • Placenta previa with risk of bleeding - Placenta previa can
  • Fetal distress

C-sections scheduled prior to 39 weeks, can come with complications. However, if your doctor wants to schedule your c-section early, it means the benefits of an early delivery outweigh the risks.

An example would be with triplets. The risks of waiting until 39 weeks to do a c-section, in this case, would outweigh the risks of delivering early.

Reasons to Schedule C-Sections After 39 Weeks

When calling to plan your c-section, you might be surprised to learn your doctor wants to delay your procedure. Although a baby is considered full-term after 37 weeks, most doctors' offices won't schedule a c-section until you have reached 39 weeks gestation.

Why won't doctors schedule c-sections before 39 weeks? Babies develop at different rates, and some aren't ready to be born at the 37-week mark. Over the past decade, doctors have studied late preterm births in depth. One surprising discovery is that the health concerns of late-preterm births don't disappear until about 39 weeks gestation. Babies born before 39 weeks may still have some of the health problems that late preterm babies face, including:

If the discomforts of late pregnancy have you itching to meet your baby, take heart. By postponing your delivery until at least 39 weeks, you are giving your baby the best possible start.

Darcy, A. MSN, RN. "Complications of the Late Preterm Infant." The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing January/March 2009. 23;78-86.

Melamed, N. MD, Klinger, G. MD, Tenebaurm-Gavish, K. MD, Herscovici, T. MD, Linder, N., Hod, M. MD, Yogev, Y. MD. "Short-Term Neonatal Outcome in Low-Risk, Spontaneous, Singleton, Late Preterm Deliveries." Obstetrics & Gynecology August 2009. 114; 253-260.

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