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Early elective C-sections are dangerous for the baby

With more than 31 percent of all births in the U.S. now performed by C-section, and with elective repeat C-sections now representing about 40 percent of all C-sections, the highly-respected New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study addressing the consequences of performing C-sections earlier than 39 weeks.  The study found that the risk of complications for newborns strongly militated against electively performing the surgery even a single day early.

Authors indicated that while a normal labor-induced vaginal delivery a few days early does not carry significant risk to the newborn, the same cannot be said for C-section births.  Apparently, in most cases of vaginal delivery after 37 and 1/2 weeks, the "full-term" fetus has signalled to the body its readiness for birth and few complications result.  Newborn "full-term" fetuses delivered by C-section even days before the 39th week, however, show dramatically greater potential for problems, including respiratory distress, low blood sugar, infection or the need for ventilatory or intensive care support. 

Newborns delivered by C-section at 37 weeks are twice as likely to have complications as newborns born at 39 weeks.  At 38 weeks, they are fifty percent more likely to have a problem.  The authors concluded that there is virtually no justification for electively performing a C-section even one day early as a matter of scheduling convenience.

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