Health Highlights: April 15, 2009

C-Sections Increase in U.S: Analysis Home Birth Safe for Low-Risk Women: Study Homeopathic Meds May Ease Cancer Therapy Side Effects: Study EPA Holds Bed Bug Summit

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

C-Sections Increase in U.S: Analysis

Nearly one-third of the 4.3 million U.S. childbirths in 2006 were c-sections, compared with one-fifth in 1997, the federal government reported Wednesday.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's latest News and Numbers also said that the percentage of American women having a repeat cesarean section increased 25 percent between 1997 and 2006, from 65 percent to 90 percent.

Among the other findings:

  • C-sections cost more than vaginal deliveries -- $4,500 vs. $2,600 in deliveries without complications, and $6,100 vs. $3,500 in deliveries with complications.
  • While c-sections account for 31 percent of all deliveries, they account for 45 percent of all costs associated with delivery.
  • Among women with private insurance, c-sections account for 34 percent of deliveries, compared with 25 percent of deliveries by women without insurance.

The News and Numbers article is based on an analysis of data in the Hospitalizations Related to Childbirth, 2006 report, which uses statistics from the 2006 Nationwide Inpatient Sample.

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Home Birth Safe for Low-Risk Women: Study

For low-risk women, having a baby at home is as safe as giving birth at a hospital with a midwife, says a study that looked at 530,000 births in the Netherlands, which has a high rate of home births.

The safety of home births has long been a subject of debate, but this study found that home birth did not increase the risk of death or serious illness among mothers and babies, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal BJOG.

"We found that for low-risk mothers at the start of their labor, it is just as safe to deliver at home with a midwife as it is in hospital with a midwife," said Professor Simone Buitendijk, of the TNO Institute for Applied Scientific Research, BBC News reported.

"These results should strengthen policies that encourage low-risk women at the onset of labor to choose their own place of birth," Buitendijk added.

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Homeopathic Meds May Ease Cancer Therapy Side Effects: Study

Certain homeopathic therapies appear to relieve the side effects of cancer treatments without affecting how they work, suggests a review of published research.

Dr. Sosie Kassab, a specialist in complementary cancer therapies at Royal London Homeopathic Hospital in the United Kingdom, and colleagues reviewed eight studies that included a total of 664 patients, BBC News reported.

While they were able to find only a small number of studies, the researchers said it appears that some homeopathic medicines can help alleviate the effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, further research is needed to confirm their findings, noted the Cochrane Collaboration team.

There were several problems with the studies included in the review, Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in the U.K., told BBC News.

Overall, the review "confirms plenty of previous research demonstrating the unproven nature of homeopathy," he said.

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EPA Holds Bed Bug Summit

In response to a resurgence of bed bugs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is this week hosting its first-ever summit on the little blood suckers.

"The problem seems to be increasing, and it could definitely be worse in densely populated areas like cities, although it can be a problem for anyone," said Lois Rossi, director of the registration division in the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, the Associated Press reported.

Bed bugs live in mattresses, sofas and sheets. They're not known to transmit any diseases, but people can have an allergic reaction to their bites.

Once common, bed bug problems in the United States were rare over the past few decades. That's changed in recent years, and infestations of the tiny reddish-brown insects have been reported in hotels, hospital wings, college dormitories and homeless shelters in a number of cities, the AP reported.

Currently, there are few chemicals on the market approved for use on mattresses that are effective at combating bed bugs. Heating, freezing or steaming the bugs may be considered as alternatives to chemicals.

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