When to Schedule Your C-Section Delivery

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Many parents say one of the best parts of having a planned cesarean section birth—c-section for short—is knowing exactly when their baby will be born. Whether you are planning a scheduled c-section for health or personal reasons, you can work with your doctors' office to decide when you'd like your baby's birthday to be.

The date you choose will vary depending on your specific circumstances and the policies of your health care providers and hospital.

The Safest Time

C-sections scheduled prior to 39 weeks have an increased risk of complications. In some cases, the benefits of scheduling your c-section early outweigh any potential risks. An example would be with triplets or higher-order multiples, placenta previa, or fetal distress. In these cases, the benefits of delivering early clearly outweigh the risks of what's called "late preterm" birth.

Otherwise, although a baby is considered full-term after 37 weeks, most doctors' offices won't schedule a c-section until you have reached 39 weeks gestation.

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 earlier preterm babies face, including:

  • Feeding difficulties
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Jaundice
  • Poor ability to maintain their temperature or problems with thermoregulation
  • Respiratory distress

Research has shown that late preterm infants may also experience developmental delays which persist until the age of two, especially in the area of language development. 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.

Dates to Avoid

There are many personal factors you may wish to consider when you schedule your c-section. You may wish to avoid dates that your families associates with sadness, such as the anniversary of a loved one's death or another traumatic moment. You may also wish to avoid or commemorate other memorable days such as birthdays and holidays.

School Cut-Off Dates

Another point you may want to consider is school. There's probably not enough leeway to avoid a summer birthday, but the difference in a few days might determine if your child will have her birthday on a school day or over Christmas vacation. As we grow older, the day of our birthday often becomes less important, but this can be very significant for a school-age child.

You may also want to consider school entrance deadlines set by your school district. Many schools require kids to turn five by September 1 in order to start kindergarten. You may wish to make sure your child either hits or misses this deadline.

Day of the Week

Some people prefer one day of the week over another (if that works with your obstetrician's schedule), like a Friday so your partner or other family members can be available for the first few days following delivery. Whatever the reason for your choice, it is your choice, and you don't need to justify it to others.

A Word From Verywell

It's not always possible to choose the date for your c-section. When you do have the option, talk with your doctor about the best time for delivery, and share your own personal wishes. Most of the time, a c-section should not be scheduled until you have reached 39 weeks.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Camara R, Burla M, Ferrari J, et al. Cesarean section by maternal request. Rev Col Bras Cir. 2016;43(4):301-310. doi:10.1590/0100-69912016004002

  2. Glavind J, Uldbjerg N. Elective cesarean delivery at 38 and 39 weeks: neonatal and maternal risks. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2015;27(2):121-7. doi:10.1097/GCO.0000000000000158

  3. Cheong, JL, Doyle LW, Burnett AC, et al. Association between moderate and late preterm birth and neurodevelopment and social-emotional development at age 2 years. JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(4):e164805. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.4805

Additional Reading
  • Cunningham FG, Williams JW. Williams Obstetrics. McGraw-Hill Education Medical, 2014.

By Cheryl Bird, RN, BSN
Cheryl Bird, RN, BSN, is a registered nurse in a tertiary level neonatal intensive care unit at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia.