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Report: Early Elective C-Sections Risky for Babies

January 12, 2009

Des Moines, IA – More than a quarter of the births in Iowa now are Cesarean sections and a new study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development finds that C-sections scheduled before 39 weeks of pregnancy when there is no medical emergency - are risky to the baby. The newborn is more likely to have serious health problems, especially respiratory issues, according to the study.

Lisa Houchins, with the Iowa chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network, says timing is everything, and earlier is not better.

"Infants that are born at 37 weeks are four-times more likely to have respiratory issues over infants who are born by scheduled C-sections at 39 weeks."

The study did not examine C-section emergency procedures, only those procedures categorized as elective. The medical community considers a baby full term at 37 weeks, but Houchins says that guideline should be changed.

"The general policy should not be inducing women early for no medical reason, and we should not be doing surgery on people for no medical reason."

The report found that, while most babies with complications recover quickly, they can need testing, treatment and expensive intensive care, which lengthens their hospital stay. Many experts say the study provides important information to help women and their doctors make decisions about having C-sections, or the timing of them, if they do.

The report is published in the January 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dick Layman/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - IA