Study Finds C-Sections May Put Preemies at Risk for Respiratory Issues

Study Finds C-Sections May Put Preemies at Risk for Respiratory IssuesA new study, conducted by experts at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, has found that small, premature infants born by cesarean section show a 30 percent higher risk for serious breathing complications than babies delivered vaginally, HealthDay reports.

The researchers concluded that respiratory distress syndrome was more common in babies born by a C-section delivery.

According to the National Library of Medicine, neonatal respiratory distress syndrome occurs in infants whose lungs have not fully developed, and is typically caused by a lack of a substance that helps the lungs inflate with air. The earlier a baby is born, the less developed the lungs will be, thus raising the chance of the syndrome.

The condition can lead to ongoing breathing problems, blindness, or brain damage.

"I would say that we at least showed that there may not be any benefit to cesarean delivery in preterm births, and more research is needed before the C-section rate goes up even further," said study leader Dr. Erika Werner, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins.

The team of researchers studied birth data on 2,560 small-for-gestational-age babies born between 25 and 34 weeks of pregnancy between 1995 and 2003. Of the total, 46 percent were delivered vaginally and 54 percent by C-section. Even after several factors were taken into account, the higher risk for respiratory distress syndrome remained.

Dr. Diane Ashton, deputy medical director of the March of Dimes, said the results are similar to other recent findings.

"This particular study shows that for infants that are premature and small-for-gestational-age, which tend to be thought of as rather fragile infants, the cesarean delivery doesn't offer any protection from the adverse outcomes," She said, adding that the process of delivering babies vaginally helps get the amniotic fluid out of the lungs, enhancing their respiratory status.

According to a HealthGrades report, C-section deliveries in the U.S. rose from 27 percent of births in 2002 to 34 percent in 2009. In that period, groups like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists attempted to curb the amount of C-section deliveries.

Ashton added that these findings could soon influence medical practice.

"Certainly there should be some review and maybe recommendations from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as to where they think practice should change," she said.