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Baby Development New England Journal of Medicine Study Finds Performing Caesarean Sections Increases Health Risks for Baby

Posted Jan 14 2009 5:11pm
By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kids Nutrition Specialist Delivering via caesarean section (c-section) has become increasingly popular over the recent few years. Some schools of thought find the increase in c-section deliveries may be indicitave of its overuse. For many women, a c-section may be the only alternative but a new study warns that when used too early, this birthing method may cause health risks for the baby. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the findings add concern over the rising rate in caesarean births in the US. Accounting for up to 30% of the births in the United States, c-sections have become an elective surgery women schedule in order to avoid a vaginal delivery. The increase is scheduled c-sections is largely in part due to the risks associated with attempting to deliver vaginally after having a c-section for a previous birth; even more so after doctors and hospitals became fearful of being sued. While many women have had successful vaginal deliveries following a c-section, the complication rates were nonetheless troubling. As the saying goes, timing is everything and this could not be more critical than in the case of delivering a baby. Many doctors schedule c-sections between 36 and 40 weeks gestation when most fetuses can survive outside the womb. The delivery dates are based on various tests, but authors of the study warn these tests are not sophisticated enough to pinpoint exactly when important milestones have been reached in utero such breathing independently and being able to metabolize food. The study found that a scheduled delivery at 37 weeks, when compared with delivery at 39 weeks, causes a fourfold risk increase for respiratory distress syndrome; a condition in which an infants lungs cannot intake oxygen. According to the study, infants born before 39 weeks were more likely to have breathing problems as well as an increased risk for septic infection. In summation, the authors reiterate the age old belief that the majority of the time, it is best to let nature take its course and the baby will arrive when he is ready.
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