Emergency v/s Elective C-sections – What Is The Difference?

How you choose to give birth is a personal choice! Be it natural or assisted. But whatever your choice, it should be approved by your doctor as well, this is mainly in cases where could be a possible complication to the mother and/or child!

If you choose to get a C-section done, your doctor will run you through the nitty-gritty of all that needs to be done and is done during the procedure. You also need to know the basic difference between an elective c-section and an emergency c-section.

So, what is an elective c-section?

A planned cesarean is also known as an elective c-section. In most cases, elective/planned procedures are indicated due to the increased risk to mother and/or baby such. These include

  • Previous cesarean section
  • A breech position of the baby
  • Placenta Praevia
  • Contracted Pelvis
  • Bladder/rectum sphincter problems
  • Presence of fibroids
  • If the baby has a medical condition (eg., hydrocephalus)

A planned cesarean is usually performed at 39 weeks (after the baby’s lungs are fully formed).

It should be known that a planned/elective c-section is also performed at the mother’s request in the absence of any underlying medical reason.

Whatever be the reason for the need, an elective/planned c-section is only performed after benefits and the potential risks have been carefully discussed with your doctor and they consent it.

So, what is an emergency C-section?

In some cases, if there is a grave threat to the baby’s life for any reason (in cases like cord prolapse, placental abruption, cord compression, motorized vehicle accident etc) where a delay in delivery could result in a baby that’s compromised or in worse situations lead to death, an emergency c-section is performed. An emergency cesarean section has the exact procedure as in planned/elective cesarean section.

So, what is the difference between the two?

Though the prodecure carried out are the same (in both an elective and emergency c-section), there are few differences. The main differences are:

  • Scheduled v/s unscheduled: In most instances, whatever the reason for opting an elective c-section, it is scheduled well in advance by the expectant mother and the doctor!
  • Time taken: In an elective cesarean section it takes 2-3 hours to get the patient ready, starting an IV drip, putting in any catheters, preparing for the operation while in an emergency cesarean section all those things are compressed into maybe a ten-minute period of time.

What is common between the two?

Almost everything else. The pre-operative preparation and the surgery done is the same in both cases. Also, the post operative care and instructions given are also the same.

Rest assured if you have had an emergency C- section it is nothing to be alarmed about. Think of it as a mini detour that you had to take. Towards the end the destination is all that matters and in this case, all that matters is that a healthy baby is born to a healthy mommy!

Will my natural labor turn in an emergency C-section?

When you opt for a natural birthing experience, your doctor will evaluate if you are physically fit to do so. Hence, if a natural delivery has been scheduled it most often goes smoothly. Only when there is a difficult labor, the doctor will take a call to proceed with an emergency C-section, to deliver the baby ASAP.

If you choose a natural birth, all you can do is be mentally prepared and gather as much information as possible about emergency C-section. It will help put your mind at ease.




Dr. Aishwarya Rajeev has completed her MDS degree and is currently pursuing her PhD. She is an avid reader and loves to teach and write!

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