Spontaneous labour ahead of of an elective C-section

Whether a caesarian section is your preferred choice of delivery, or you require one for medical reasons, your baby may very well have a different plan. Midwife Pippa Hime discusses what to do if you go into labour ahead of an elective C-section, and its possible benefits.


For some women a natural delivery is not always the safest option. This means that the baby will need to be delivered via caesarian section. When a baby is delivered ahead of its due date for medical or elective reasons, it is referred to as a planned or scheduled C-section.

As pregnancy is anything from 38 to 42 weeks long, the delivery is usually planned for the 39th week. This is the optimal time for a scheduled caesarian section to take place, allowing for maximum growth and maturity of the baby. In some instances, a mother may go into spontaneous labour ahead of her scheduled C-section date.

ALSO SEE: Five signs of approaching labour

What to do when you go into spontaneous labour ahead of an elective C-section

If you do go into labour, don’t panic. Let your doctor know that you have gone into labour and get to the hospital as soon as possible. The surgical team will be mobilised, and the procedure will move from being a scheduled caesarian section to an intrapartum emergency C-section.

The downside to going into labour and having an unscheduled C-section is that your baby can be born overnight and your preferred medical practitioner may not be available.

Although not well researched, there are several advantages to going into spontaneous labour:

  • If you go into spontaneous labour and your water breaks, your baby will be exposed to your vaginal flora. This helps in developing the microbiome of your newborn baby. The baby’s microbiome plays an essential role in gut health, immunity and overall wellness of the child. Vaginal biome is more varied than the skin biome exposing the newborn to a wider range of micro bacteria.
  • Going into labour can also be reassuring for you and your partner, especially if you had hoped for a normal vaginal birth and knowing that your baby was ready to be born.
  • There is also a possible reduction of Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn (TTN) or wet lungs, as the contractions of your uterus can help to push fluid out of your baby’s lungs. According to obstetrician Dr Sherwood, however, there is a reduced risk of TTN after the 39th week anyway.
  • In labour there is a huge spike of the hormone oxytocin, which is released in the mother. This is known as the “hormone of love”. As well as contracting the uterus it also triggers nurturing feelings and behaviours, which promote breastfeeding and baby bonding after birth.
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