Risk of death and babies delivered by cesarean

Filed under: Your Pregnancy

A couple of days ago, Reuters Health summarized a study from the latest issue of Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care. The investigation, conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggested that for mothers at low risk, infant and neonatal mortality rates are higher among infants delivered by cesarean section than for those delivered vaginally in the United States. The researchers analyzed over 5.7 million live births and nearly 12,000 infant deaths over a four-year period. In general, neonatal (less than 28 days of age) deaths were rare for infants of low-risk women (about 1 death per 1,000 live births). However, neonatal mortality rates among infants delivered by cesarean section were more than twice those for vaginal deliveries, even after adjustment for socio-demographic and medical risk factors. The overall rate of babies delivered by cesarean increased by 41% between 1996 and 2004, while the rate among women with no indicated risk for cesarean delivery (term births with no indicated medical risk factors or complications of labor and delivery) nearly doubled.

The authors concluded that while timely cesareans in response to medical conditions have proven to be life-saving interventions for countless mothers and babies, we are currently witnessing a different phenomenon- a growing number of primary cesareans without a reported medical indication. Although the neonatal mortality rate for this group of low-risk women remains low regardless of the method of delivery, the resulting increase in the cesarean rate may inadvertently be putting a larger population of babies at risk for neonatal mortality.

To many to-be mothers, the cesarean option is, as one pediatrician once told me, the Cadillac way of giving birth. This study suggests that this may not be the case. Maybe we need to return more to the Model version followed by our parents and grandparents. Any comments?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.