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Repeat C-sections a risk to baby?

May 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Babies delivered by elective Caesarean section are more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) if the mother has previously had a C-section, according to a new study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.Researchers found that newborns were twice as likely to end up in the NICU when compared to babies born vaginally. They also discovered that on average, such C-section babies are also more likely to have breathing problems.

Women who have delivered via C-section once are also more likely to repeat the procedure with subsequent children even though vaginal delivery is still a viable option. Many women prefer Caesarean section to vaginal birth because it can be scheduled and is considered by some to be more convenient than waiting for the baby to come out naturally. Still, there are risks associated with both methods.

Researchers are urging women to consider all their options before choosing an elective Caesarean section for both health and financial reasons. "The cost of the birth for both mother and infant was more expensive in the elective repeat C-section group compared to the vaginal birth after C-section group," said Dr. Beena Kamath, the study's lead author and a clinical instructor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, in the June issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta show that the Caesarean delivery rate increased two percent in 2007, to 31.8 percent, which was a record high for the United States. That 31.8 percent figure also reflects the 11th consecutive year of increase of the Caesarean delivery rate in the U.S.

The new study used records from the perinatal database at the University of Colorado, Denver which ran from late 2005 through mid-2008 and focused on babies born to 343 women who had planned a repeat, elective C-section. Of that group, 104 went into labor before the C-section and 239 did not.

Kamath's team also examined another 329 women who planned to try vaginal birth after having previously undergone a C-section. Of those births, 85 did not work and the women had to have a C-section anyway. Those failures were blamed on a myriad of reasons.

The research team at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver found that across the board, babies born vaginally fared better overall when compared to the newborns delivered via Caesarean section.

The study said 41.5 percent of the C-section babies required oxygen in the delivery room while 23.2 percent of the vaginally delivered babies needed help to breathe. The team also found that 9.3 percent of the C-section babies were admitted to the NICU, while only 4.9 percent of the vaginally delivered babies ended up in intensive care after delivery. And after being admitted to the NICU, 5.8 percent of the C-section babies needed oxygen compared to 2.4 percent of the vaginally delivered babies.

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