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Infant Deaths After C-Sections Rise Even in Low-Risk Pregnancies

Danger to babies more than twice that of those delivered vaginally, study finds

THURSDAY, Aug. 31, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Among U.S. women with low-risk pregnancies, those who opt for Caesarean section have higher infant and neonatal death rates than women who deliver vaginally, a new study finds.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from more than 5.7 million live births and nearly 12,000 infant deaths over a four-year period.

Overall, neonatal (younger than 28 days) deaths were rare for infants of low-risk women. The rate was about one death per 1,000 live births.

However, the study found that the death rate among neonatal infants delivered by Caesarean section was more than twice that of infants delivered vaginally. This held true even after the researchers adjusted for socio-demographic and medical risk factors.

The researchers noted that there was a 41 percent increase from 1996 to 2004 in the number of U.S. babies delivered by Caesarean section. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 1.2 million C-sections -- 29.1 percent of all births -- were performed in the United States in 2004.

"These findings should be of concern for clinicians and policy makers who are observing the rapid growth in the number of primary Caesareans to mothers without a medical indication," lead researcher Marian MacDorman, a CDC statistician and senior social scientist, said in a prepared statement.

She's also co-chair of the SIDS and Infant Mortality Committee for the American Public Health Association.

"While timely Caesareans 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 Caesareans without a reported medical condition," MacDorman said. "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 Caesarean rate may inadvertently be putting a larger population of babies at increased risk for neonatal mortality."

The study was published in the latest issue of the journal Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care.

More information

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has more about patient-requested Caesarean delivery.

SOURCE: Blackwell Publishing, news release, Aug. 29, 2006
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