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Can You Have an Elective C-Section?

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There were more than 1.2 million deliveries by cesarean section in the year 2012 alone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whether you are stressing over a vaginal delivery, think that a c-section is less physically challenging or want to pick and choose your due date, an elective cesarean is possible, but it may not be medically advisable.

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Elective vs. Necessary

An elective c-section refers to the mother's election of the procedure without medical cause, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Agreeing to a cesarean after your doctor deems it necessary for your or your infant's health is not the same thing as an elective procedure. When your doctor has concerns that you can't safely deliver vaginally, the c-section may become necessary. Even though you must give your consent for the c-section -- as you would for any other surgical procedure -- it is in no way elective. The ACOG estimates that roughly 2.5 percent of U.S. births are via elective c-section.

Risk Factors

Even though a vaginal delivery can come with complications of its own, an elective surgery presents unnecessary risks for the mother and the baby. Possible issues that may arise from a c-section include respiratory problems for the baby as well as post-section pain or infection in the mother, according to Preeti Malani, a medical doctor and clinical professor at the University of Michigan. On top of the risks associated with a regular surgical delivery, c-sections also include a longer hospital stay and recovery time. Choosing to have a c-section means weighing the risks against your reasons for wanting the procedure.

Doctors and Discussions

Simply walking to your obstetrician's office and announcing that you're having a c-section isn't likely to cut it. Although you have the final say over your own body, most doctors will require an extensive discussion before agreeing to perform an elective c-section. This is often an ethical issue for the medical community. Doctors may feel that the elective procedure is only acceptable if the mother has a full and complete understanding of the risks and possible complications for both her and her baby. Clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology Caren Stalburg tells the news@JAMA website that she's only comfortable agreeing to an elective c-section if the patient understands the procedure and has had multiple discussions with her beforehand.

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Guidelines and Restrictions

The ACOG's Committee on Obstetrics Practice's guidelines and recommendations on elective cesarean procedures state that doctors shouldn't perform unnecessary c-sections before 39 weeks gestation. The Committee on Obstetrics Practice also recommends that doctors discourage elective c-sections for women who plan on having more children. This is primarily because of complications that may affect future pregnancies, such as an increased likelihood of placenta previa (in which the placenta covers the cervical opening), uterine rupture or the possibility of needing to have a hysterectomy.

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