The Difference Between a Planned and an Elective Caesarean

This month is #CaesareanAwarenessMonth and over on my Facebook page I’ve been sharing a few old posts I’ve written that details my experiences under the knife. I’m also working hard on the #MyBirthMyBody campaign for Maternity Matters, which is really exciting too. So naturally I’ve been thinking back to my own experiences in the last 11 years. Two emergency sections, one elective and one planned. I’m often asked why the differentiation between the last two? Aren’t elective sections the same as planned? And according to health care professionals, the answer would be yes. To me, a huge NO.

The difference between a planned and an elective caesarean is simple.


The Difference between an elective section and a planned third pregnancy was amazing. I was well. I was strong. I was determined. I was fighting back against the horror of my second emergency section and I had fire in my heart. I read all that I needed to read about my rights and my choices and I was well informed. I was in control. I was also under the care of an amazing medical team and it was this that determined the fate of this experience. I was listened to. I don’t write enough about how wonderful my care was third time around. Third time lucky indeed. But I was.

My doctor listened to me and when I told him that I wanted an elective c-seciton for emotional reasons, he did not miss a beat. I wasn’t questioned; my choice wasn’t challenged. Instead, I was offered support and guidance towards the best outcome for me, personally. I was given a surgery date at my 20 week scan, and a plan was put into place in case I went into labour before that date. I was more than happy with this plan and I enjoyed my pregnancy.

That was an elective c-section. Elective surgery. I elected to birth my baby this way.

And this is why a planned c-section is so very different.

My fourth pregnancy was ripped from under my feet by four letters. IUGR. A baby who was not growing as well as we hoped she would, and a body that had already been on that table three times previously. A baby who might not survive a vaginal birth, and a body that might not survive an induction. A baby who needed to come a little early, and a body who would not deliver early for anyone. Nothing was in my control. There was nothing I could do to change the situation. I couldn’t make her grow. I couldn’t protect her while she was inside of me. I couldn’t see any alternative.The Difference between an elective section and a planned

So my fourth section was planned, but it was not elective.

I didn’t choose for them to cut me open. I didn’t choose to have that scar re-visited, the skin pulled apart and my body a slab on the table. I didn’t choose to be in that situation at all. And yet I was. There was no other option at all. And yet I chose! I chose to to have my last baby on the operating table. Because the other option had very weighty arguments against it. The other option had no guarantees. The other option carried too many risks.

And so when my doctor ticked the ‘elective’ box on the reason for surgery, I felt so defeated. It wasn’t elective. It was planned. A necessity. A means to an end.The only way it could be. Not elective. No choice. Not elective. No control. Not elective. No.


  1. April 10, 2016 / 9:54 pm

    I have t say I’ve never thought about the difference in these two terms but it all depends on yoru experience. For me there were two types of section and that was planned or emergency. My first birth was an emergency, crash in fact and super traumatic and my twin one was planned and wonderful but now I think about it the choice was taken away from me, so it wasn’t elective. Thanks, Mich x
    Michelle Twin Mum recently posted..I May be Some Time..My Profile

    • ghostwritermummy
      April 12, 2016 / 8:32 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that. I think we’ve spoken before about the twins’ birth. I think its so important for women to feel they have a choice, even if it is over the smallest of aspects if the c-section is absolutely necessary x x x

  2. kim
    April 10, 2016 / 10:33 pm

    Thank you for this. It beautifully describes an experience close to my own c birth (it followed 2 straight forward births). Mine too was ‘elective’ yet I never wanted it. I did not plan for nor chose it. Most, if not all, professionals could not understand my sadness at the loss. I was asked to see a psychologist because I was desperate to go into labour naturally. I felt I had lost something rather than gained a life preserving experience.
    It is 3 years ago now and I try to remain positive and remember the choices I did make- my baby having a gentle and slow birth, hearing my voice first, delayed cord clamping and milking), skin to skin throughout ‘closing up’ and her first feed in theatre.

    • ghostwritermummy
      April 12, 2016 / 8:29 pm

      Oh gosh, yes I was so desperate to go into labour. I wanted to feel just one contraction, one last time. I knew it wasn’t really going to happen because my first two pregnancies were at least 41 weeks long, so going into labour at 37 weeks was never going to happen. But still… I feel cheated and lost still, because I had no control and my choice was just non existent. I wanted skin to skin in theatre too but I had to wait. I’m so glad you had gentle elements to yours xx

  3. April 11, 2016 / 1:24 pm

    Same as Michelle I had never thought about the difference between planned and elective, but you make fabulous points.
    Years ago after I had Aaron people were just talking on Twitter about the difference between planned and emergency. Making it sound like if it wasn’t an emergency it was only ever “too posh to push”. I tried at the time to say that there can be a section that is a necessity but not an emergency. I wasn’t distressed and neither was Aaron, BUT after 18 hours of active labour he was going nowhere as the circumference of his head was 42 cm. So while my section was completely necessary it wasn’t an emergency although clearly in a matter of hours it would have become one. So I don’t know what you’d call mine as it was neither planned nor elective……….
    THIS TIME……… I had the exact same experience as the one you mention above, where it was your choice but wasn’t at all challenged. Nobody put pressure on me to have a VBAC and it was elective and fully planned. Can it be an “and” rather than an “or” with planned and elective? 🙂
    Liska @NewMumOnline recently posted..My New Mum Summary of the Last Ten Weeks with BabyMy Profile

    • ghostwritermummy
      April 12, 2016 / 8:27 pm

      Your first sounds a little like my first too. Not really an emergency, but definitely not in the plan!! I’m so glad you had a better experience second time around-and your little lady is so beautiful too. Seems like only yesterday you told me you were pregnant! xxx

  4. April 11, 2016 / 3:49 pm

    You know I never thought of it that way. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I had a natural birth with both my children, the first was very difficult and labour lasted 17 hours. I was exhausted. Second time round it was so fast that I barely got to the delivery suite before LP was born! I cannot imagine having to make the choice you did. You’re right though, it wasn’t a choice. xxx
    Morgan Prince recently posted..Hello, My Name is EVIL MUMMy Profile

    • ghostwritermummy
      April 12, 2016 / 8:24 pm

      I think no matter what kind of birth you have, if you are given the opportunity to make an informed decision about your the care you receive and the birth itself, it can do wonders for your self esteem and feelings towards the whole experience. Fast deliveries especially can be hard to get your head around. Thanks for reading, I was so worried people wouldn’t really understand what I meant xx

  5. April 22, 2016 / 8:38 pm

    This is such an interesting article!it is not something I have thought about before as the c section just evolved! I was determined to have a natural birth- only gas and air if possible please! But after 3 days of contractions and a swollen cervix ( Tmi) and an unwanted epidural I was taken to have a c section! I felt so annoyed at my body! Then, to make matters worse, on the way down to the operating theatre my heart rate dropped and I had to have a GA! When I woke I was gutted that this was not my choice! My husband did not get to cut the cord and I was so pumped with adrenaline that the whole first day of my child’s life was a blur! I could not be more grateful that we were both safe and sound and the hospital did a fantastic job, but now it is not recommend That I have the natural birth I always wanted!

    Mary x

    • ghostwritermummy
      April 30, 2016 / 12:50 pm

      Why do they recommend you to have a VBAC? It is your choice after all. I’m sorry to hear you had such a traumatic time; I had a c-section under GA and it was horrid xx x

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