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Early C-Sections Place Mothers and Babies at Risk

A growing number of pregnant American women and delivery doctors are choosing Cesarean sections (C-sections) before their babies reach full term (39 weeks) instead of vaginal birth for the delivery of babies. According to recent studies, the number of C-sections performed in the United States has risen to more than 36 percent.

Driving the increase are both mothers and their physicians. According to a study conducted by Yale researchers, women often choose Cesarean birth for convenience and for cosmetic reasons. Further, Dr. Uma M. Reddy, National Institute of Child health and Human Development, has found well-educated women exhibit tendencies to schedule C-sections early before their babies have reached full term.

In addition to these pregnant women wishing to complete their pregnancies before they are in labor, some doctors are encouraging elective delivery prior to the usual gestational period of 39 to 40 weeks. The convenience factor is present: physicians can schedule C-sections around office hours and vacations. However, some Connecticut birth injury lawyers say that the fear of a medical malpractice lawsuit might be a powerful motivator for some doctors, and some may just choose to deliver babies early before risking complications if a pregnancy proceeds to natural birth.

These reasons and the increasing trend toward early elective C-sections are deeply concerning for organizations such as the March of Dimes. Believing that every week of pregnancy is crucial to the health of most mothers and babies, the March of Dimes introduced a public education campaign called "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait."

In research published in the December 2009 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, only one out of four women knows that a full-term pregnancy is at least 39 weeks long. Some women even believe that the last weeks of pregnancy are not as important since a baby is only putting on weight. The March of Dimes campaign is working to teach women that every week in pregnancy is important.

Research shows that babies are healthier and medical costs are lower when the infants are allowed to develop fully. And during the last few weeks of a pregnancy, a baby is not just putting on weight. Rather, the brain, lungs, liver and other vital organs are still developing.

When babies are introduced to the world early through C-section or are induced before term, statistics indicate an increased risk of complications such as:

  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Respiratory distress
  • Low blood sugar
  • Jaundice
  • Sepsis/infection
  • Death

The tragedy is that most of these complications could be avoided if otherwise healthy pregnancies were allowed to continue to full term.

According to Dr. Eve M. Lackritz, Chief of the Maternal and Infant Health Branch, Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the healthiest course of action for mothers and babies is waiting for term labor and delivery. "Women may feel worried, anxious or simply uncomfortable near the end of their pregnancy. However, unless there are medical complications, the healthiest and safest place for that developing infant is in the womb."