Cesarean sections may not always be the better choice for babies born preterm, a new study finds.
In fact, C-sections are no safer than vaginal delivery for infants born early. They might even lead to more respiratory problems and other complications in newborns, according to a report presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Dallas.
The new study, led by Netherlands researchers, examined the consequences of labor induced in patients who suffered a rupture of membranes between the 34th and 37th week of gestation (before the onset of labor).
"Our research indicates that in patients who underwent close monitoring, known as expectant management, versus those whose labor was induced, there was no difference in the risk for infection in the newborn, breathing problems in the newborn or caesarean section rates," said Dr. said David van der Ham, with the Maastricht University Medical Center and one of the study's authors. "Due to these findings, we suggested expectant management as opposed to induced labor when possible."
For the study, van der Ham and his colleagues tracked more than 700 women between 2007 and 2011 who delivered preterm babies by C-section or vaginal birth.
They found babies delivered vaginally had about the same risks of infections and respiratory problems as those by C-section. “Combined with results of all previous published trials there was no difference in the identified risks,” researchers concluded.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported C-section rates rose 33 percent from 2000 to 2007, with women under the age of 25 experiencing the greatest increase at 57 percent.