Early Caesareans Risky for Newborns
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C-sections, as we've long known, can be risky business. The C, also known as the Caesarean section, is, after all, major surgery, with a longer recovery time than a regular birth. C-sections also can lead to complications like infection and difficulty breastfeeding. New research suggests that early C-sections done for full-term babies can be even riskier. An article in the New York Times and one on Reuters both point to the risks, which include respiratory distress, infection and hypoglycemia in infants. The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted that in 2006 30% of all deliveries were via C-section, a dramatic increase of nearly 10% from 1996.
So, if there are all these risks, why would a woman choose to have a C-section? A lot of women would rather have their own OB deliver their baby, and scheduling a C-section would pretty much ensure they'd get the doctor of their choice as opposed to whomever happened to be on call when they go into labor. There's also this notion that a baby is full-term at 37 weeks, when, in fact, babies are really full-term at 39 weeks. Women think that at 37 weeks the baby is fully cooked and are uncomfortable, want to meet their little new one, and so schedule a C to take care of both those things.
While a good deal of women choose and continue to choose to have C-sections, many women don't have a choice. As we've discussed before, the thought of a VBAC (vaginal delivery after Caesarean) is almost unheard of in this country. Doctors fear tearing and further complications with a VBAC and think they'll avoid malpractice by scheduling a C-section. Then there's the matter of childcare. When I was in the OB during my last few weeks of pregnancy I was offered a scheduled induction since I had my other child's care to think about (I opted to let nature take its course!).
It's impossible to say just how much unnecessary C-sections are costing this country, but I bet it's in the billions each year. Perhaps in light of the risks to both mom and child the number of early C-sections will decrease!