More Hospitals Banning Elective C Sections

More hospitals are refusing to perform elective C-sections and inductions.
More hospitals are refusing to perform elective C-sections and inductions.


is a miraculous thing, but most moms would agree that the last month of it isn't a lot of fun. (Michelle Duggar might beg to differ, but given that she's pregnant with her 20th child, we're going to go ahead and say she's not the norm.) You're uncomfortable, to say the least. You can't sleep, thanks to the tiny bundle of wonder practicing his or her best kicks at night. And then there's the heartburn, swelling, around-the-clock trips to the bathroom, and more.

Is it any wonder that so many women wish they could avoid as much of that last month as possible? Given that elective inductions and Cesarean sections have been on the rise for years, it seems as though many new moms are doing just that.

"I have seen women induced or have a scheduled C-section because they have family scheduled to be in town, because they want the baby to be born on an anniversary or someone else's birthday, because they want the baby born prior to Jan. 1 for tax purposes, or because they are simply sick and tired of being pregnant," Dr. Elaine St. John, associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told ABC News in 2009.

But hospitals across the country are intent on reversing that birth-on-demand trend. The top hospitals in Massachusetts are now refusing to offer elective C-sections and inductions before 39 weeks gestation, and many medical centers in New York, Arizona, Oregon, New York, California, Texas, and Illinois have banned them as well.

"We became good at delivering babies before 39 weeks. Doctors were thinking if you can deliver at 39 weeks, why not 38 weeks or 36 weeks," said Dr. Ken Welch of the Banner Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, which stopped scheduling elective C-sections and inductions in July. "We just had to draw that line in the sand and say, because of the data, that we've become convinced we know it's healthier for the baby and we know the mother wants what's best for the baby."

Cesarean sections account for 32 percent of all births in the United States, and is the most common operation performed in U.S. hospitals. According to the National Institutes of Health, a "normal" pregnancy can last from 38 to 42 weeks, but recent studies confirm that babies born before 39 weeks gestation haves an increased risk for a host of medical problems, including breathing issues, hypoglycemia, infection, developmental delays, feeding complications, and jaundice.

"Thirty-nine to 40 weeks is the gold standard," Michele Larsen, the March of Dimes' Oregon chapter spokeswoman, told MSNBC.

"The brain is much larger at 39 weeks than at 36 weeks," explained Dr. Welch. "The lungs, the gastric system, all of those things are maturing right before a baby would be due to be born."

Hospitals would still schedule early C-sections and inductions that they deem medically necessary. But some moms bristle at the idea of a doctor telling them that they have to wait until they're 39 weeks along to give birth.

"You're already out of control of your body, so at least to know if you go to your doctor's office and say, 'Look, we're at 37 weeks, and I feel like I'm ready,' " Lisa Coulouris, who had twins via emergency C-section earlier this year, told NPR. "To know that I would have that choice would just make me feel better. But to take it away from me just adds to the pressure of being pregnant."

Also on Shine: