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Early Repeat C-Sections Linked to Health Complications in Newborns

Saturday, February 14, 2009 by: Reuben Chow
Tags: c-sections, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) In order to make childbirth a smoother process, many pregnant mothers and their families schedule Caesarean sections a little earlier. However, a recent study has revealed that this could, literally, be a very unhealthy practice, as it greatly increases the risk of breathing problems, blood infections and other potentially dangerous complications in newborns.

About Caesarean sections

A Caesarean section, or C-section for short, is a procedure whereby a baby is removed from his mother's body via a surgical incision in her abdomen, as supposed to being delivered vaginally. And statistics reveal that the use of this procedure is on the rise and has reached an all-time peak.

There are several possible reasons for the increase. More women in modern society today are having children at a later age, when their bodies would be less able to cope with the whole pregnancy and delivery process. Doctors may also be detecting potential complications earlier and stepping in to prevent their occurrence. It is also likely that many women are opting for C-sections with the hope that it would be the easier choice of delivery. And the thing about C-sections is that, once a woman has had it once, she is very likely to use the same method for subsequent pregnancies.

Details and Findings of Study

The said study was sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It was led by Alan TN Tita from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Statistical data from the institute, which collects information on pregnancies from 19 medical centers across the country, was used.

The study team had looked at 24,077 women who underwent a repeat C-section from 1999 to 2002. Of those ladies, 13,258 were found by the study team to have undergone "elective" C-sections, which means that there was no indication that mother or child was in distress, or that there was any other medical reason that the women could not have undertaken normal labor. Of this group, almost 36% had delivered their babies before the 39-week mark of pregnancy.

Delivery Milestones

What is the significance of the 39-week milestone? The full term of a pregnancy is actually considered to be at the 37-week mark. However, the recommendation of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is for elective repeat C-sections to take place not before the 39-week mark. This is to help ensure that the baby has developed fully.

However, many women choose to deliver early for a few possible reasons, including being eager to end the pregnancy process or simply for convenience, such as to meet doctor or family schedules.

Considering that these are elective procedures, having one-in-three going against official recommendations already sounds pretty alarming. However, because the study data was collected from academic medical centers, which would be more likely to adhere to official recommendations, the reality is that the actual rate could be even higher.

Increased Risk of Complications

The study found that, as compared to those delivered at the recommended 39-week mark, newborns delivered using elective repeat C-sections at the 37-week mark had almost twice the risk of breathing problems, bloodstream infections as well as other health complications. Those delivered at the 38-week mark had a corresponding 50% elevated risk, while those who were delivered a few days before the 39-week mark had heightened risk of about 20%.

Generally speaking, most of the babies who develop these complications recover quite quickly. Even then, they may be required to stay in the hospital for a few extra days to undergo additional testing and treatment. And, in some cases, the complications could be serious.

Regardless of how dangerous the complications could be, they do still cause emotional stress as well as financial burden. In addition, they affect family bonding and make breast-feeding more difficult.

Importance of reaching 39 weeks

The findings of the study have provided a quantifiable assessment of the importance of the 39-week milestone with regard to elective repeat C-sections. "Having a baby at term, you might expect the baby would do well and come to your room with you and then go right home with you. This shows there are significant risks," said Catherine Y Spong from the sponsoring institute.

"I think that as a patient or a physician, you might be convinced that being close to 39 weeks is probably good enough and there's probably no difference if you are going to turn 39 weeks on a Sunday to have a Caesarean on, say, a Friday. Before this, we didn't have the data to say that there would be more risk," she added.


Are there risks to waiting, too? Some experts have pointed to the other side of the story, such as the possibility that delaying one or two weeks in an attempt to reach the 39-week mark could result in more stillbirths. Michael F Green from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston stated in an accompanying editorial: "This paper, although it provides important information about risk, does not give us the whole story. It doesn't provide an accounting of how many babies may have died waiting to get to 39 weeks. You have to balance both sides of the ledger."

However, Spong has pointed out that while the extent of stillbirth risk resulting from waiting is not clear, this study has already revealed that early delivery is tied to significant risks of health complications. She summed up this point well when she said:
"It's hard to advocate doing a Caesarean at 37 weeks to try to prevent a stillbirth when we don't really know the true risk."

Are you or a loved one primed for an elective repeat C-section procedure? If so, you will need to weigh the pros and cons of the situation.


Early Repeat C-Sections Increase Risks, Study Finds (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content...)

About the author

Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth. His website, All 4 Natural Health, offers a basic guide on natural health information. It details simple, effective and natural ways, such as the use of nutrition, various herbs, herb remedies, supplements and other natural remedies, to deal with various health conditions as well as to attain good health. His other websites also cover topics such as depression help, omega 3 fatty acids, as well as cancer research and information.

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