Most expectant mothers are prepared for the possibility that they may need to undergo a Cesarean section (more commonly known as a C-section) when it comes time to give birth. However, a growing trend has appeared in recent years with more and more pregnant women opting to schedule a C-section in advance for a procedure known as an "elective c-section." This has contributed to a rise in the number of C-sections performed each year. Over the years, the number of C-sections has steadily increased.
So why are elective C-sections so popular, and are they right for you and your baby? Read this article for more information about the pros and cons of elective cesarean sections.
What Is Elective C-Section?
A C-section is a surgery performed to deliver a baby. During the procedure, a surgeon makes an incision through the mother's abdomen, thereby providing a way to remove the baby. Emergency C-sections are those that are used in cases where a woman attempts to deliver the baby vaginally, but due to problems that arise during labor a C-section becomes necessary.
Unlike an emergency C-section, an elective C-section involves a pre-planned date and time where the doctor will perform the surgery. This is scheduled for a date where the baby will be developed enough for a healthy delivery but before the mother is likely to go into labor. The surgery itself remains the same to that of an emergency C-section in most respects.
Pros Of Scheduling An Elective C-Section
Many doctors will advise an expectant mother to undergo an elective C-section if they have a preexisting medical or physical condition that may make a vaginal delivery to be unsafe or potentially harmful to the baby or the mother. In cases where the mother has one of the following conditions, it may be safer (depending on individual circumstances) for the doctor to schedule a C-section in advance:
- Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)
- HIV or sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- High-risk fetus
Likewise, there are also several reasons that a pregnant woman may be the one who requests an elective C-section. The following are reasons that a woman may opt for an elective C-section even if there is no medical reason for one as determined by a doctor:
- Problems with a previous vaginal birth: Some women suffer from scarring or a difficult recovery after a vaginal birth. Others develop medical complications, such as bladder control problems, or experience a very long and difficult labor that may lead them to desire a C-section instead.
- Fear of giving birth: For women who have severe anxiety about giving birth, an elective C-section may help ease their fears.
- Timing and control: Some women simply want to know exactly what day their baby will arrive and what their delivery process will be like, whether it is for personal reasons or for timing work leave and family visits. An elective C-section gives them that assurance.
There are a few other pros to have an elective C-section that some women may factor into their decision as well, including:
- Physical damage: Tearing of the perineum and urinary or fecal incontinence are common side effects of a vaginal birth that those who have an elective C-section generally don't experience.
- Sexual function: Many women who deliver vaginally have to wait longer before having sex after the birth while they heal than those who deliver via C-section. Additionally, women who deliver via C-section do not experience the loss in muscle tone in their vagina that women who deliver vaginally typically experience.
- Pain: Because mothers are given anesthesia before a C-section, they usually experience less pain while delivering than a woman who is delivering vaginally.
- Risk to the baby: Babies born via an elective C-section are less likely to undergo fetal distress or oxygen deprivation, both of which may happen as a result of long labor.
- Emergency vs. elective: Comparatively, elective C-sections are safer than emergency ones. If a woman is already at a higher risk for needing a C-section, it may be safer to plan one than to risk needing one at the last second.
Cons Of Scheduling An Elective C-Section
Although there are certainly many good reasons that a woman might want an elective C-section-particularly if she has a preexisting condition that puts her at risk-there are also several drawbacks to this method of delivery. The cons of having an elective C-section include:
- Increased risk of infection and bleeding.
- Increased risk of uterine rupture and damage to internal organs.
- Increased risk of the baby experiencing breathing problems directly following the delivery.
- Increased risk of infant mortality.
- Increased potential for a premature birth (when a due date is miscalculated).
- Possible complications from anesthesia.
- Increased risks associated with having a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) delivery.
- A longer and, in some cases, more painful recovery period.
- A large incision that takes time to heal and leaves a noticeable scar.
- Increased expense (C-sections are generally more expensive, and some insurance companies do not cover elective C-sections).
If you are concerned about giving birth vaginally or you feel as though you may be a good candidate for an elective C-section, talk to your obstetrician. Keep in mind that many doctors are often wary of elective C-sections due to the increased risks associated with this form of delivery. However, in some cases an elective C-section is healthier for both the mother and the baby. Your doctor will be able to give you a better idea of whether this is the right choice for you, so it's important to listen to their advice and to make your decision very carefully.