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

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Updated June 24, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Pregnant women patient talking with doctor
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Question: When is the Best Time to Schedule a C-Section?
Answer:

Many moms feel like one of the best parts of having a planned Caesarian section birth (or c-section for short) is knowing exactly when their baby will be born. Moms who have already had one c-section and elect not to VBAC, or moms who plan a c-section for health or personal reasons, can work with their doctors' offices to decide exactly when their baby's birthday will be.

However, moms who are planning a c-section might be surprised when they call to make their appointment. Although a baby is considered "full term" after 37 weeks, most doctors' offices won't schedule a c-section until a mom has 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:

So 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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