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Early C-Section Risks Endanger Newborn Babies

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 by: Elizabeth Walling
Tags: C-section, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that having an elective repeat c-section before 39 weeks of pregnancy puts a newborn at risk for serious illnesses and even death. Just about 40 percent of all cesarean sections are repeat procedures, so this study is quite relevant to any woman considering an early elective c-section.

As of 2006, c-sections accounted for more than 30 percent of all births in the United States, up from 20 percent in 1996 and 5 percent in 1970. C-section rates continue to climb, but this procedure is not always to the benefit of the newborn involved. Of course there are many c-sections performed for medical reasons, even to save the life of an infant or mother, but many are elective, meaning there is little medical reason behind the caesarean. Some of these elective c-sections are done as early as 34 weeks, although the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends elective c-sections be performed no earlier than 39 weeks.

The study looked at records of more than 13,000 women who had elective repeat c-sections at any one of 19 clinical centers belonging to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network. The women had an elective repeat c-section between 37 and 39 weeks of pregnancy without any prior indication of an early c-section.

The study then examined whether these women had babies who later died or suffered from serious medical conditions such as respiratory distress, infections or seizures. It was also noted if babies were hospitalized longer than usual, if they were admitted into neonatal intensive care, or if they required respiration at any point during the initial stay at the hospital.

Results were conclusive that babies delivered before 39 weeks were much more likely to suffer from health problems. For infants delivered at 37 weeks, the risk doubled compared to delivery at 39 weeks.

These results confirm that babies should not be delivered before 39 weeks simply for the sake of convenience, says Dr. Alan T. N. Tita, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. He also states this evidence is important for counseling mothers to wait to have an elective c-section until after the 39-week mark.

Obviously, if there are medical reasons behind the procedure the risks involved are outweighed by the benefits. But if there is no strong medical reason to perform a c-section, mother and baby are much better off waiting until after 39 weeks.

Paddock, Catharine. Early Repeat C-Section Riskier to Baby. Medical News Today. (2009)

Winstein, Keith J. Early C-Section Carries Risks, Study Finds. The Wall Street Journal. (2009)

About the author

Elizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more:

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