Hot Topic Tuesday Blog Hop: The Right to an Elective Birth?

Cesarean SectionAs a new mother who recently gave birth to her first baby, I believe that birth should happen when the baby is ready to be born, not when the mother or the doctor believes is most convenient. Although sometimes a birth must be scheduled to protect the health of the baby or the mother or both, I am very much against the practice of elective inductions and elective cesarean sections. My opinion largely stems from the fact that delivering a baby too soon can result in a host of health problems for the baby. So, for the Hot Topic Tuesday prompt of the week, I am asking, “Should pregnant women be allowed to chose an elective induction or cesarean section prior to thirty-eight weeks of gestation?”

When a woman discovers that she is pregnant, her due date is calculated at forty weeks after two weeks prior to conception (or thirty-eight weeks after conception). However, a baby is considered born at full term starting at thirty-eight weeks (or thirty-six weeks after conception). A baby who is born prior to thirty-eight weeks is considered premature.

With prematurity comes the potential for a host of health problems. Some of the worst problems include low birth weight, breathing problems, underdeveloped organs or organ systems, increased risk of life-threatening infections, increased risk of respiratory distress syndrome, increased risk of cerebral palsy, and increased risk for learning and developmental disabilities. The closer that a baby is born to thirty-eight weeks, the less likely that he or she will suffer from a serious health issue.

My daughter was born at thirty-six weeks and two days. I am absolutely certain of her gestational age because I know exactly when she was conceived. I charted my cycles using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) and used an Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK), so I know exactly when I ovulated. In other words, I know for sure that Poppy was born almost one weeks and five days premature. Fortunately for her, she was completely healthy at birth and continues to remain completely healthy.

Not all babies born prior to thirty-eight weeks, however, are as lucky as Poppy. Many suffer from a host of health problems. For example, I have a cousin who was born three months premature. He was in the hospital for quite a while after birth, and he still has a number of health problems that are a direct result of his prematurity. So, when I think about a mother agreeing to bring her baby into the world before thirty-eight weeks without a legitimate medical reason, I become a little ill to my stomach.

In my opinion, pregnant women should not be allowed to chose an elective induction or cesarean section prior to thirty-eight weeks of gestation without a legitimate medical need. The health risks for the baby are just too great. I cannot understand how a mother would voluntarily risk the health of her child by inducing a birth too soon. I am also in general against elective births because, although I know exactly when I conceived Poppy, not all due dates are accurate. Even though a woman might think her baby is at thirty-eight weeks, the due date might be off, resulting in a premature birth should the woman chose an elective birth.

A number of hospitals are beginning to agree with my opinion. Last fall I read an article on MSNBC about elective inductions and cesarean sections that made me jump for joy. According to “Hospitals Take ‘Hard Stop’ on Early Elective C-Sections, Inductions: Oregon Is the Latest State Where Some Hospitals Are Refusing to Do the Procedures before 39 Weeks of Pregnancy,” seventeen hospitals in Oregon have created policies that no longer allow pregnant women to choose elective inductions or cesareans prior to thirty-nine weeks of gestation. Oregon was the most recent state to agree to the ban on early elective births. Other states in which hospitals have agreed to the ban include California, Texas, New York, and Illinois.

Unless medically necessary, early elective births should be banned. The health risks to the baby are just too great. I absolutely cannot understand why a woman would want to risk the health of her child without a legitimate reason. Yes, the last few weeks of pregnancy are uncomfortable. Yes, sometimes babies arrive at less than convenient times. But sometimes life is uncomfortable and inconvenient. Pregnant women should not be allowed to chose elective inductions or cesarean sections prior to thirty-eight weeks of gestation.

What do you think about elective births prior to thirty-eight weeks?

Hot Topic Tuesday

Next week’s Hot Topic Tuesday subject: When, if ever, should babies learn to “cry it out”?


Hospitals take ‘hard stop’ on early elective C-sections, inductions: Oregon is the latest state where some hospitals are refusing to do the procedures before 39 weeks of pregnancy:
Premature labor and birth:

Image Credits

Cesarean Section:

Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is a mother, wife, writer, librarian, and linguist. She earned a BA in English studies with a minor in creative writing from Illinois State University in May 2007, an MS in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2009, and an MS in English studies with an emphasis in linguistics at Illinois State University in December 2011.

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