C-Sections May Do More Harm Than Good In Some Cases
February 10, 2012

C-Sections May Do More Harm Than Good In Some Cases

New research reveals that babies born by c-section before 37 weeks, also known as pre-term birth, have a higher chance of developing health issues.

Dr. Diane Ashton, the deputy medical director for the March of Dimes told Fox News: “We think this is an important study for providers to understand and possibly change their practices. Basically the take-home message here is for small, gestational age preterm infants, the best route for [them] is a vaginal delivery.”

The research, led by Erika F. Werner, MD, MS, assistant professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, reviewed the birth certificates and hospital discharge information for 2,560 small for gestational age babies delivered preterm. The research revealed that preterm babies delivered by c-section had a 30 percent higher chance of developing respiratory distress syndrome than those babies of a similar gestational age born vaginally.

Dr. Werner told Loren Grush of Fox News: “I don´t think we know for sure why this is the case. In theory, you can say that it has something to do with contractions and the birthing process, getting the lungs ready for breathing outside the body, but we don´t know for sure.”

Babies born preterm, or before 37 weeks, have more serious health issues. These health issues cost the United States more than $26 billion annually. Preterm birth is also the leading cause of newborn death, where one million babies globally die each year. If the baby survives the early birth they will suffer challenges such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, or learning disabilities just to name a few.

According to the press report, the March of Dimes is hoping that this research will help doctors and patients see more of the risks involved with caesarean birth. They have been working with hospitals and health policy experts to implement a tool kit that they and partners developed that promotes policies to reduce the number of medically unnecessary c-sections and inductions scheduled before 39 weeks of pregnancy.

But Dr. Abdulla Al-Khan, director and section chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine and Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center is not convinced. He told Grush: “No one in the medical community is in disagreement that natural birth is the best way to achieve birth. But in modern medicine, we have saved lives in doing c-sections. If we look just over the last 50 years, neonatal mortality has definitely decreased in this country.”

The study, Method of Delivery and Neonatal outcomes in Preterm, Small for Gestational Age Infants was presented Thursday at the 32nd annual Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Meeting.


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