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How Early Do You Schedule A C-Section? Experts Weigh In

For something that happens at a rate of about 250 babies per minute, labor is a rather common happening, right? But, man, it's very confusing, too. With all of the options, variables, time tables, and unsolicited advice to consider, the idea of delivering a little one can feel rather overwhelming. And if you are faced with the possibility of a C-section, then it can bring even more questions to the table. But how early do you schedule a C-section? Experts say the first thing to consider is the "why" behind it.

"A very slow protracted labor makes the chance of needing a cesarean section more likely," Dr. Gerardo Bustillo, OB-GYN at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper. "If the patient has been completely dilated and has been pushing for at least three hours (with first baby) or two hours (with subsequent baby), the risk of needing a cesarean is high. Also, if the monitoring of the fetal heart rate pattern is not reassuring during labor, the odds of requiring a cesarean are higher as well."

Fetal distress, as a matter of fact, is one of the top reasons why an emergency C-section would be necessary during labor, says Dr. Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Placental abruption — where the placenta separates from the uterine wall — an active herpes outbreak, and breech or transverse presentation would also be reasons for performing a C-section.

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Ross, who is also the author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period., lists several other risk factors that might lead to a C-section during labor, including maternal obesity, low amniotic fluid, unfavorable cervix, twin pregnancy, baby complications including being smaller or larger than average, birth defects, if the baby has an unusual large head, and previous C-sections.

According to Baby Center, experts agree that "no C-sections should be scheduled before 39 weeks unless there is a medical reason to deliver earlier." If you are planning to schedule a C-section for a non-medical reason, then the March of Dimes warns that you might run into a few issues, including an incorrect due date that leads to a baby being born too early or issues for future pregnancies.

If you’re planning to schedule a C-section, talk to your provider about waiting until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy. This gives your baby the time she needs to grow and develop before she’s born and about halfway through your pregnancy, your doctor should talk to you about setting that date on the calendar.

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"A C-section is major surgery for mom," March of Dimes noted. "You have to stay in the hospital longer, and it takes longer for you to recover from a C-section than from a vaginal birth. You may have complications from the surgery, like infections and bleeding."

If it is recommended that you schedule a C-section as a result of one of the reasons listed above, there are a few questions you will want to ask your provider, including why they feel a C-section is necessary and whether or not it's safe to try and deliver vaginally, according to Parents.

Ultimately, it is important that no matter how you give birth, you do it in a way that is not only safe for you and your baby, but makes you feel comfortable. Many women that have planned C-sections say they wouldn't change a thing about their delivery method, and it even gave them a sense of relief. Talk to your doctor about your options and make a decision that best suits your situation. Opinions from well-meaning friends and random strangers on the street? Yeah, you can go ahead and ignore those.

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