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Certain practices regarding pregnancy and delivery can help prevent health problems for both mom and the baby, while others can increase the risk of serious problems.

Early elective delivery and potentially unnecessary cesarean delivery are two issues that parents-to-be need to know about.

An early elective delivery is a birth scheduled by choice before the 39th week of pregnancy without a medical reason or need.

Cesarean births (commonly called C-sections) are when doctors cut through the abdominal wall muscle and the uterus to deliver a baby. When medically necessary, a C-section can help save the life of mother and/or baby during a complicated birth. However, nearly one-third of all babies in the U.S. are born via C-section, and this is above what most experts consider medically necessary.

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What can patients do?

Sometimes births are being scheduled by parent or doctor a little early for non-medical reasons. Staying pregnant for at least 39 weeks increases the likelihood the baby will be born healthy. And, all too often, C-sections are used to deliver a baby when not medically necessary.

  • Ask your doctor or hospital about how often they perform C-sections.
  • Learn the risks of early elective deliveries and unnecessary C-sections, for both mom and baby. A busy schedule is never a good reason to induce birth.
  • Ask your doctor why they are recommending an option.
  • Create a flexible birth plan and discuss it with your doctor or midwife before you go into labor.
  • Learn about birth by taking birth classes, reading books and asking lots of questions.

Visit Own Your Health to help you make informed health care decisions.

What should your doctor do?

You should expect your doctor to tell you the risks of an early elective delivery or C-section, both for you and your baby’s current health, and for future pregnancies.

Your doctor should also show courtesy and respect when you share your birth plan.

If your doctor recommends an early elective delivery or C-section, they should tell you:

  • Why they are recommending it.
  • Your options for inducing labor.